Weltzeit 1-2023 | Telling it as it is: Bold journalism since 1953

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Bold journalism since 1953 Telling it as it is THE MAGAZINE “MADE FOR MINDS” 2023

DW is Germany’s international broadcaster. Our job? Ensuring freedom of opinion around the world with unbiased news and information. Over 291 million people rely on our TV, online and radio coverage each week to make up their own minds. DW Akademie trains journalists worldwide and supports the development of free media. DW’s global staff is made up of nearly 3,000 people from more than 140 countries.

Weltzeit is published by DW and covers freedom, democratic values and our commitment to unbiased information.


Telling it as it is …

A principle to which DW has remained true for over 70 years.

Since DW went on air in 1953, we have informed our users around the world about the implications of the dramatic changes we have witnessed. In this issue, we are taking decisive moments in recent history as a cue for an outlook on the challenges for our societies which are more interdependent than ever before.

The fallout of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has affected not only neighboring countries but caused immediate consequences as far away as the Global South. In effect, this war has taken us to a crossroads in international relations and is bringing about new alliances. The changes on the playing field today are more complicated than during the Cold War. The stakes could not be higher.

While we have a job to do, keeping the public abreast with global developments, journalism around the world is under immense pressure. From autocratic governments, from state actors, armed groups, criminal organizations and even ordinary citizens who have fallen into the trap of disinformation.

Some governments seem to believe that they can hold on to absolute power by controlling the flow of information to their citizens. The digital age has made the circumvention of state censorship easier. People will always find a way to get the full picture.

The role of international broadcasters like DW has become crucial in this context,

making journalism the intermediary for a global audience with independent and objective information. And we strive to live up to our promise to all our users every day.

For any credible media organization, it is key to have people on the ground. DW is officially blacklisted in several countries. I salute our correspondents and reporters who are working against the obstacles put in their way in countries with limited and no freedom of the press.

It is thanks to all the women and men who are so dedicated to their professional calling as journalists, that DW can continue its proud tradition of observing, scrutinizing and holding those responsible to account.

Looking at Russia’s war against Ukraine, I want to mention the impact of professional journalists and media in the context of international armed conflicts. The courageous and diligent work of journalists on the ground is an important contribution to the documented evidence needed to prosecute war crimes and human rights violations.

We understand, that in extreme situations we are journalists and witnesses at the same time, and we act accordingly. This is not touching our impartiality as observers, but a duty as human beings.


It is thanks to all the women and men who are so dedicated to their professional calling as journalists, that DW can continue its proud tradition of observing, scrutinizing and holding those responsible to account.
3 Weltzeit 2023
© DW / J. Röhl
Contents 26 What do Russians think? 22 Environmental journalism in Brazil remains dangerous LATIM AMERICA Interview with Natalia Zubarevich 54 Tracing service as a lifeline DW's contact program for refugees from the Yugoslav war ENCOUNTERS 9 Mohamad Chreyteh 134 The hope for a better future With Margot Friedländer DW HIGHLIGHTS 10 DW Planet A A global look at climate issues DW Analiza 11 +90 Turkish-language format expands to TikTok 12 Nous, les 77 pour cent French edition launched 13 Guardians of Truth 14 The Campus-Project 2023 Afghanistan and Iran RUSSIA 70 YEARS DW 4




16 ¡Venceremos! Latin America with new self-confidence

20 The corrosive power of violence Media in Mexico


29 Delivering justice for the war crimes

32 The new Ukrainian reality


40 The Nobel Peace Prize behind bars


42 DW A brief history

44 Milestones

48 Our global network

50 The echo of history DW Greek

58 Rescue from Kigali Days of anguish in Rwanda

Bringing aggressors to justice

60 The early days of broadcasting

Interview with Hans-Jürgen Reher

66 A look back in time

When Lech Wałęsa addressed the Soviets on DW Radio

74 Walking a very thin line

AFRICA 70 Ignored, underrepresented, underestimated The media’s view of Africa 77 Press freedom in Nigeria 80 Using media as a weapon Russia’s influence in Africa GLOBAL IMPACT 84 Getting climate on the news agenda 88 No more refugees, please 90 Can the EU stop migration in Libya? 92 InfoMigrants DW’s information platform for migrants and refugees 94 Best relations for the time being 96 The tsunami of global hunger 100 Turning a blind eye to a real threat Critical reporting in the cradle of democracy 102 A Taiwanese view on the island’s future 104 Who is responsible? Afghanistan under the Taliban 110 Facing off at the Olympic Games Athletes talk about boycott 114 Human trafficking Bulgarian organized crime networks 118 Parallel universes … by Uğur Gallenkuş
Journalism in Cameroon AFRICA ©
Melgrati 138 Woman Life Freedom IRAN 6 CONTENTS

107 Elections in Turkey


122 Developing media. Supporting human rights.

Now more than ever

126 Understanding trauma could be the key to resiliency

Interview with Gavin Rees

129 Strengthening the voices of women


132 Predicting the future DW trainees



147 Raif Badawi

148 An ally in the fight for press freedom

70 years of DW

151 Weaponizing the law to silence journalists


154 Viral but irrelevant

158 Challenging censorship

162 The dawning of a new era

DW’s path to global information provider

164 AI and I

A mash-up


170 Press freedom at stake in India

174 Enabling people to make free decisions

Our primary goal

176 Is New Work the new normal?

Interview with Barbara



184 Reassessing the approach to Israel



On the verge of an abyss?

142 Social media vs. state propaganda

145 The power of words Using books to fight for freedom of speech

188 Managing Palestine’s looming leadership transition

192 Imprint

IMPACT 7 Weltzeit 2023

May 13: Fuchsthone Orchestra

May 13: Bobby Sparks

Florian Weber & Dogma Chamber Orchestra

Thomas D & The KBCS

Sendecki & Spiegel

ENEMY – Downes/Eldh/Maddren

Thärichens Tentett

Ida Nielsen & The Funkbots

Jacob Karlzon Trio

Judith Hill

Portugal/Gramss/Muche/Negrón van Grieken

Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio

May 14: Philip Lassiter

Brad Mehldau Trio

Jakob Manz & Johanna Summer

Atom String Quartet

Julia Hülsmanns Heaven Steps To Seven

The Baylor Project

Simon Nabatov & Matthias Schubert

Simon Nabatov & Ralph Alessi

Fuchsthone Orchestra

Bobby Sparks PARANOIA

Post Koma

Philip Lassiter

Jazzfest Bonn Extended

August 26/27 2023


Vince Mendoza & WDR Big Band


May 1 to 14 2023

Mohamad Chreyteh

“Intense, interesting and promising,” is how Mohamad Chreyteh describes his first months at DW in retrospect. The award-winning investigative journalist and filmmaker from Lebanon has headed DW’s Beirut bureau since August 2022.

This is an exciting professional challenge for him. He is currently working with colleagues in Bonn and Berlin to expand DW’s reporting from the region. As a regional hub, Beirut will produce reports and topics for all DW language services in various formats for online, digital and TV. Chreyteh is certain, this will be “a promising concept that will give DW a greater presence in this important region of the world and bring it closer to its target groups on the ground.”

Logistically, however, it is not an easy task. “The country is suffering from one of the worst economic crises ever and is politically paralyzed. Public utilities in Lebanon are notoriously poor, the state provides barely more than 2 hours of electricity per day in many parts of the country,” he says, describing the situation. “Fortunately, DW made it possible for us to move into a well-secured and maintained building where water and electricity are available 24/7.”

In February 2023, Chreyteh covered the devastating earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people in Turkey and Syria. “It was a challenging assignment in every respect: logistically, editorially and emotionally. I didn’t expect to relive such a tragedy so soon after the huge explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020; and on a much larger scale, at that. The images of destruction, the smells, the fear and desperation of the people, all brought back many memories for me.”

© DW

DW Planet A A global look at climate issues

YouTube channel DW Planet A, launched in September 2020, addresses young users’ needs for solution-oriented reporting on climate change.

DW Analiza

Even with sometimes unwieldy topics, the social media format DW Analiza has had great success on the web: The technology duel between China and the USA, the oil price putting the alliance between the producing countries and the EU to the test, what factors will be decisive in the war in Ukraine?

The videos achieve hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube every week, high reach on Twitter and Instagram as well. And thousands of comments, through which the editorial team’s community management can enter into direct dialogue with users. The format was originally developed in the editorial department of DW’s Spanish television channel to provide more background to the news on the TV program with more up-to-date videos and with personalized explainer formats on the digital platforms.

With Planet A, DW tackles environmental issues that matter to the young target group worldwide with a twist: “We don’t want to only point fingers. Every video tries to convey possible solutions and be constructive. Climate change content can be depressing at times, and we want to break free from that,” explains Kiyo Dörrer, Supervising Editor of Planet A. “We launched Planet A because there wasn’t a lot of environmental content on YouTube that focused on the bigger picture. A lot of the videos dealt with individual solutions how to use less plastic or recycle your organic waste. But we wanted to look at

how the systems and power structures need to change for us to effectively combat climate change.”

Identifying and addressing user needs that were not sufficiently addressed before on the platform namely by creating a constructive format has been a recipe of success for Planet A. Now well into its third year, the format has gained over 400,000 followers. The most watched videos were viewed over three million times each. The team has since also launched a TikTok channel.

dwplaneta @dw_planeta

The impressive usage numbers have now brought the digital format to linear television programming as well. DW Analiza has been running on the DW Español TV channel since February 2023. “Digital first” is part of DW’s strategy to offer its users in the various target regions the programs that meet their individual information needs.

@dw_espanol dw_espanol dwespanol Watch DW Analiza on YouTube 10 DW HIGHLIGHTS


Turkish-language format expands to TikTok

The social media format +90 debuted on TikTok in February, delivering distinctive output on social and regional themes whilst offering Turkishspeaking viewers a new destination to engage with constructive journalistic content.

The TikTok channel is the latest expansion of the multiplatform channel +90. Since the launch on YouTube in April 2019, the format has maintained a strong digital-only presence in Turkey, with more than 625,000 subscribers and an average of 3 million monthly views, and has since expanded to Twitter, with a follower count of 75,000, and Instagram, with 213,000.

+90 is a project developed by DW with VOA, BBC, and France 24 as part of the international broadcasters’ aim to create custom content and provide young Turkish audiences with unbiased information that promotes free speech in Turkey. While all four organizations contribute content to +90 YouTube channel, DW leads the project and oversees its programming, strategy, distribution, and marketing.

DW Managing Director of Programming Nadja Scholz: “As part of our digital first approach to commissioning, the +90 format has been a great success. Thanks to the editorial team behind the international joint venture, it is the perfect format to deliver stories that explore a wider range of opinions, allowing young audiences to evaluate diverse issues affecting the Turkish society.”

Uncovering overlooked stories in Turkey

The launch on TikTok builds on the success and global reach

of the format’s social accounts on YouTube, Instagram and Twitter and marks one of the first journalistic offerings tailored for young TikTok users in the region to provide unbiased information amid a decline in journalistic freedom in Turkey. In addition to curating content relevant to viewers in Turkey, the format will continue its mission to uncover important stories missed by local news outlets and provide value to younger and more female audiences.

Erkan Arikan, Director of Turkish Service: “The format +90 complements our offerings and enables us to further expand the ways we reach younger and especially female audiences in Turkey. We’ve seen a huge demand for factbased, unbiased journalism in the region, and our +90 team is working around the clock to provide young people with relevant stories that don’t make it into the Turkish news channels.”

Filling the gap for Turkish-focused, constructive journalism

The channel serves as an extension of DW’s editorial commitment to constructive journalism, with TikTok being an opportunity to reach the potential target groups in Turkey.

Isil Nergiz, Head of Channel +90: “We started on YouTube and expanded to Twitter, Instagram and then TikTok, motivated by the desire to go where our audience is.

Many people in Turkey use TikTok, most of whom are in the age range of our young target audience, but there is little to no journalistic content being offered to them. +90 reporting will fill the void for a Turkish-focused, independent, diverse and constructive journalism.”

Cross-platform content reach

+90 channel videos range in length from 30-second shorts to 15 minutes, allowing for more explanatory and in-depth content. Content includes interviews, reportages and explainers on key regional themes, including the

latest earthquakes in Turkey, the collapse of the Turkish lira, being a young Jew in Istanbul and stories of sexual abuse survivors.

Some of the format’s top videos to date on Instagram include Earthquake from a construction worker’s perspective, with more than 9.9 million views. On YouTube, Scorpion venom fetching 10 million dollar a liter reached over 3.6 million views. On Twitter, the video Being a young Armenian in Turkey has been viewed 1.5 million times and garnered over 5,000 likes.

plus90 @plus90 11 Weltzeit 2023

Nous, les 77 pour cent French edition launched

On the beach at Cotonou: Kamal Radji listens attentively to the young woman telling him how she became a victim of cyberbullying. The influencer is in Benin’s economic hub hosting a street debate for youth magazine 77 percent, now in French on DW. Majoie Houndji talks about how she was bullied first in school, then on Facebook because some of those around her thought her breasts were too small.

“A former friend wrote a post to my Facebook page and inside of a week I had 60,000 followers… but they weren’t standing by me, they were coming after me.” She recounts how she began hurting herself so she would not feel the pain of the insults and didn’t know which way to turn. “Then one day it occurred to me: This is about my life!” So, she filed a lawsuit against the offenders.

Majoie Houndji went on to start a club for people against

cyberbullying who also support the victims.

Cyberbullying, professional perspectives, participation in politics and civil society, love, migration, innovation, taboos the new French-language magazine, dubbed “77 pour cent nous, les jeunes d’Afrique” deals with all these topics in the form of reports, interviews or discussions.

The magazine’s name comes from a statistic by the World Bank showing that 77 percent of Africans are younger than 35. This majority does not have much of a voice, so DW gave them one in 2017, by launching the 77 percent format: radio reports and videos on demand (VoD) now in six languages, including French, as well as English, Portuguese and Hausa.

“I am so happy that we are producing a program for a young francophone audience,”

says Fréjus Quenum, Co-Head of French for Africa. “77 percent is a program that combines entertainment with education. We are not afraid to touch on difficult topics but we make sure that we do not destroy the innovative capability of the young people. The show is structured to be a source of motivation for young Africans.”

“77 percent is hitting the mark and the young people seem to trust the DW brand and are showing how much they love discussing issues,” says Claus Stäcker, Director of Programs for Africa. “TV in Africa is still growing, but as internet prices continue to drop, more and more young people are watching our video-ondemand content on their cellphones, tablets or laptops.”

dw.com/fr dw77pourcent

Text Dirke Köpp, DW French for Africa
Watch 77 pour cent
© Johan von Mirbach / DW

© DW


has been fighting against ruler Alexander Lukashenko from exile since 2020. For several months Turkish journalist Can Dündar traveled with her to Vilnius, Vienna, Aachen and Berlin.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg said at the premiere: “Most people in the West do not know what it is like to live in exile, not to be able to return to their homeland. That is why our film with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Can Dündar is so important. It also draws attention to the ongoing courageous struggle of the people in Belarus.”

Following the film screening, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said that everybody who lives in Belarus is in constant danger of “being arrested, kidnapped, put in prison.”

“My husband is on trial again in Belarus. We all know it’s a farce, an attempt to put pressure on him to break. But my husband, like all the other political prisoners, is unbreakable,” Tsikhanouskaya said. The more than 1,000 prisoners “know that the Belarusian people continue to fight for them. They believe in us, in the international community and that together we will be able, through pressure, through sanctions, through

negotiations, to find mechanisms to release our beloved and to free our country from dictatorship.”

In the Guardians of Truth series, Can Dündar, former editor-in-chief of the Turkish daily Cumhuriyet, who was imprisoned in 2015 for his research into Turkey’s arms supplies to Syria, meets exiled journalists, politicians and dissidents around the world. He talks to them about the fate he

himself shares with them. Dündar’s films show impressive biographies of people who fearlessly stand up for freedom of expression. Guardians of Truth Part 1 followed Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández, who has been living in exile in Italy since 2017. Her work focuses on corruption and the collusion between Mexican government officials and the drug cartels. Hernández became the fifth recipient of the DW Freedom of Speech Award in 2019.

Can Dündar: “We live in a time when freedom is threatened in many places in the world. Fortunately, there are also courageous people everywhere who defend this freedom. It is a privilege that we can meet them in this film series.”

Can Dündar and Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya

In 2015, the Turkish journalist Can Dündar exposed illegal arms deliveries from Turkey to Syria, was called a terrorist by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and fled to Germany after an attack was made on him during his trial. Since then, he has campaigned for freedom of expression worldwide.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya is an “involuntary” opposition leader. In 2020, her husband Sergei stood in the Belarusian presidential elections against long-time ruler Alexander Lukashenko, but was detained before election day and later sentenced to 18 years in a prison camp. Tsikhanouskaya briefly took over her husband’s candidacy, but left the country with her two children shortly afterwards for security reasons and has since been living in exile in Lithuania. She called for peaceful protests against ruler Lukashenko and is campaigning for the release of political prisoners.

In the 2022 Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders, Belarus ranks 153rd out of 180 countries.


Can Dundar meets Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya Watch Guardians of Truth Part 2 on YouTube
13 Weltzeit 2023
Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and Peter Limbourg
© Florian Huber / DW

The CampusProject 2023

Afghanistan and Iran Text Anastassia Boutsko, DW Culture 14 DW HIGHLIGHTS

For over 20 years, the Beethovenfest Bonn and DW have been organizing the joint Campus-Project a cultural performing platform for young musicians from around the world.

This year, the focus is on two countries in which women in particular are struggling for their right to social participation and (cultural) self-determination: Afghanistan and Iran. The first stop is the Portuguese city of Braga, where young Afghan musicians have currently found refuge from the Taliban.

Marin, Shabana and Baset are members of the Afghan National Youth Orchestra. In August 2021, the lives of these young people changed abruptly after the Taliban took over power in Kabul. The young musicians’ “alma mater”, the Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM), became one of the first targets of the new regime: classrooms were vandalized, musical instruments destroyed.

“My mother said to me: you must also destroy your instrument, the sitar, or at least hide it well,” Shabana recalls. “So me and my brother, who is also a musician, wrapped our instruments in blankets and hid them in the laundry.” In the months that followed, Shabana was only rarely allowed to leave the house: “My mother was afraid that I could be picked up by Taliban and forcibly married.” Her fellow music student Marin also recounts similar experiences, “Life changed abruptly. It was a nightmare.”

A new life began for Marin, Shabana, Baset, and nearly fifty other young Afghans a few months later when Portugal, on behalf of the European Union, made the decision to offer refuge to young musicians from the Taliban-occupied country.

Braga, a beautiful small city near Porto in northern Portugal, is hosting the members of the Afghan youth orchestra. “Here our young musicians have the opportunity to go to appropriate schools, but most importantly to continue their musical education at one of the best conservatories in Europe,” says Ahmad Sarmast, founder and director of ANIM with visible pride. “I am sure that the barbaric rule of the Taliban will not last forever,” Sarmast says. “And then we will return to Afghanistan with a team of young musicians who are among the world’s elite.”

For the Campus-Project the musicians from Afghanistan will perform a concert at the Beethoven Festival in Bonn in September together with their young colleagues from the National Youth Orchestra of Germany (Bundesjugendorchester).

Cymin Samawatie has taken on the task of musical director of the project. Born and raised in Germany as the daughter of parents who fled Iran, Samawatie knows about the structural and cultural problems and reservations.

The composer, conductor and singer lives in Berlin and, with patience and perseverance, has established herself as a pioneer of a new transtraditional music that artistically unites musicians from different cultural backgrounds.

“I am thrilled by the creativity of young Afghan musicians and their openness and I look forward to working with them,” Samawatie says. On the artistic vision of the project, she explains, “The poetic word, a central element of Afghan culture, and in both major national languages, Pashto and Dari, will play a central role. Namely, the poetry of women.”

“Art and culture, especially music, are subject to considerable restrictions in Afghanistan and are partly forbidden, for Afghan musicians it is therefore hardly possible to develop,” says DW’s Head of the Afghanistan Service, Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi. “We often hear about violence against Afghan artists or even against people who listen to music. For this reason, it is important to us to support the project with our coverage.”

As in previous years, all activities of the project will be accompanied by the media and language channels of DW. The Afghanistan-Iran Campus marks the 21st round of this unique and successful international project.

dw.com/culture beethovenfest.de/ campus-projekt

I am sure that the barbaric rule of the Taliban will not last forever and then we will return to Afghanistan with a team of young musicians who are among the world’s elite.
© DW
15 Weltzeit 2023
(left to right): Head of project, Thomas Scheider (Beethovenfest), Anastassia Boutsko (DW Culture), Director of ANIM, Ahmad Sarmast, Zamzama Niazai and Nazenin Wali (DW Dari and Pashto Service)


Latin America is back on the world stage. After long years of neglect, Europe and the US have rediscovered their interest in the region. Against the backdrop of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the subcontinent has become more important not only because of its fossil raw materials and its great potential for producing green energy, but also geopolitically: Not least at the United Nations, every vote against Russia counts

But Latin America’s traditional ties with Europe are by no means self-evident. While Europe and even the US are still held in high regard by the people in the region, their governments have long been courted by Russia and China, and competition has widened the scope for negotiation.

About a dozen Latin American countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to join China’s Silk Road Initiative, China is building ports and railroads, buying mines and concession rights, and recently trumped Germany and others in the race to mine lithium in

Bolivia. Russia, on the other hand, is not only economically engaged and thus vital to the survival of its traditional allies in the dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, but also relies on soft power: The Kremlin invests in cultural exchange, scientific relations, and uses them for its propaganda, for which historically based anti-American resentments provide fertile ground.

Europe is in a competition that is about more than raw material supplies and trade relations. In addition to historical and cultural proximity, in recent decades after most Latin American dictatorships were overcome the two continents have been linked by shared democratic values. What has been lost sight of in the process is the fact that for most people in Latin America, the idea of Western democracy is linked not only to political but also to economic participation. However, neither the overthrow of dictators nor vibrant economic relations with the global West have helped to combat the glaring social inequality.

Latin America with new self-confidence

© Pablo Cozzaglio / AFP via Getty Images

The Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia. South America controls about 70 % of the world’s reserves of lithium.

17 Weltzeit 2023

The hope for greater social justice that was associated with democracy has been dashed again and again in Latin America. And yet it has just experienced a renaissance: In Colombia, the reformed former guerrilla Gustavo Petro was elected as the first left-wing president in history; in Brazil, the social democrat Lula da Silva replaced the unsavory rightwing populist Jair Bolsonaro; in Chile, Gabriel Boric, a former student leader who was elected to office after a wave of social protests, has been in power for a year. The expectations of the poor, the marginalized and the disadvantaged now rest on them. The three presidents must deliver. However, none of them has a stable majority of their own in parliament, and they will have to make far-reaching compromises. To what extent they will actually succeed in achieving a more social economy and society is an open question.

The risk of failure is immense in Latin America. Many of the reasons lie in the constitutions, which are often described as poor copies of the US Constitution. Directly elected heads of state without a parliamentary majority are predestined to disappoint their voters; at the same time, they are more easily tempted to rule through their access to the military. The frequent ban on re-election, which is actually an attempt to limit power, fuels corruption and bad governance. At the same time, the separation of powers functions inadequately in many places, and the legal system is perceived as corrupt.

Social inequality still partly reflects structures of the colonial era: A racist class society that feels no obligation to the indigenous population and the descendants of slaves. On the one hand, precarious living conditions and a lack of education increase the manipulability of these voter groups and can sweep populists to power; on the other hand, they

make it more difficult for new democratic forces to emerge. In addition, the specter of communism is very much alive in Latin America. The road to the abyss taken by Venezuela following the election of a socialist tribune of the people means that even justified social demands are often perceived as subversive by the old elites. Peru, which has worn out five presidents in the last five years, exemplifies political polarization, social division and the resulting alienation from the existing democratic system.

In addition to political reforms, steps toward a fairer economic system are urgently needed if the countries of Latin America are to take their rightful place on the world

stage in the long term. To achieve this, old mistakes must not be repeated. During the last commodity boom, no Latin American country managed to develop a self-sustaining economic model. Both Lula in Brazil, who was already once in power at the time, and his socialist colleagues Evo Morales in Bolivia and Rafael Correa in Ecuador largely confined themselves to redistributing the profits from the exploitation of natural resources through social programs, not to mention Hugo Chávez and his successor Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela. Europe profited from this and has become an accomplice in this development.

For a successful new start in relations, Europeans must

© picture alliance / dpa / Cerrejon
View of the Cerrejon mine in Colombia.

not only insist that social and environmental standards be observed in economic cooperation always with the risk that competition from China or Russia will demand less while offering faster profits. Europe must also provide a technology transfer that enables partners to create more value in their own countries. The first steps have already been taken. For example, while Germany initially seeks to import more coal from Colombia in light of the current energy shortage, it also aims at supporting the country in building a green hydrogen industry. In order to finally adopt the free trade agreement between the EU and the South American Mercosur states, similar thinking is needed.

Politically, Europe must accept that no allegiance can be expected from Latin America. The egoistic vaccine policy of the Corona years has cost the EU credibility and reinforced the trend towards diversification of foreign relations in Latin America. The fact that countries like Mexico and Brazil refused to take a clear position on the war in Ukraine and instead presented their own negotiating concepts is not only an expression of traditional neutrality, but also of a new self-confidence. The European Union is no longer automatically regarded as a model of success. Supporting political and economic reforms in Latin America for sustainable mutual benefit will be a balancing act.

Against the backdrop of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, the subcontinent has become more important not only because of its fossil raw materials and its great potential for producing green energy, but also geopolitically.
A child playing basketball in the 23 de Enero neighborhood.
19 Weltzeit 2023
© picture alliance / dpa / Pedro Rances Mattey

Media in Mexico: The corrosive power of violence

The first report of the murder of a journalist in Mexico dates from 1860. On November 25, Vicente Segura Argüelles, co-founder of the satirical newspaper Don Simplicio, editor of two other newspapers and a representative of politically conservative journalism, was shot dead by troops of the liberal government in Mexico City.

These were the years of the so-called “War of Reforms,” a civil war in which two parallel governments, one liberal, the other conservative, faced each other irreconcilably for three years.

A little over half a century later, a new peak was reached when in 1912, under the presidency of Francisco I. Madero, and in 1913, under Victoriano Huerta Ortega, the number of murdered journalists rose to five each year. These were the last days of the Mexican Revolution.

Seven decades later, in 1986, the deaths of 12 journalists were recorded under the government of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado. The death toll rises steadily, ranging from 26 to 32 journalists killed during the six-year terms of Miguel de la Madrid, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, Ernesto Zedillo, and Vicente Fox Quesada.

Violence against journalists in Mexico skyrocketed under Felipe Calderón Hinojosa, under whose administration the country saw 113 murdered journalists. The number then dropped to 83 during Peña Nieto’s six-year term, and 42 journalists have been killed so far during the term of current President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

Murders are just the tip of the iceberg

Mexico is setting a sad record internationally. According to several organizations,

Mexico, the most dangerous country for journalists

Murders each year Source: UNESCO 0 20 40 60 80 100 120 80 99 55 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 World Mexico 90 57 62 99 116 102 Syria Afghanistan Iraq
Text Claudia Herrera Pahl, Head of Spanish Online

including Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Mexico is the deadliest country in the Americas for journalists and the second deadliest in the world.

But it’s not just murders. The listing of the dead certainly marks an end point, but it is only the tip of the iceberg that hides a much larger number of assaults on the press as a whole. According to the international human rights organization Article 19, in June 2022 there was an attack on journalists or media outlets in Mexico every 14 hours. According to the same source, most attacks on journalists in Mexico come from state agencies or local authorities.

In a recent act of violence, prominent journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva was shot at by unknown assailants on a motorcycle while riding in an armored car in Mexico City on December 15, 2022. He was unharmed. His armored car saved him from three targeted shots.

“We know that we are doing journalism in a violent and dangerous country and that we are exposed to risks,” says Ciro Gómez, who points out, however, that nothing comparable has occurred in the Mexican capital since the mid-1980s. The violence, he says, is concentrated in the provinces and is directed against local journalists from smaller media outlets, but seldom against the more renowned journalists working for Mexico’s largest media outlets.

So, was it a targeted attack on the journalist, or was it just an ordinary assault in a country rife with violence, where more than 30,000 murders were recorded in 2022 and more than 100,000 people disappeared without a trace? Ciro Gómez doesn’t want to jump to conclusions: “There is no certainty, only uncertainty”.

Violence is an everyday occurrence

In today’s Mexico, where people are dying seemingly indiscriminately, the effects

will be felt for generations to come. “The spiral of violence is so massive that the media now treat this news as routine, so ultimately the violence has become normal, which prevents the population from becoming outraged and generating a civil society response,” says Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernández.

“This apathy, this indifference of citizens to the suffering of others, increases the scope for impunity and leads to more violence against

everyone, including journalists,” Hernández says. “This violence, this taming and subjugation of a people at gunpoint, whether by the narcos or by the army and police, makes a country kneel not only before crime but also before authoritarianism. This life on its knees will have consequences for generations,” analyzes Hernández. “We are facing a threat to democracy and the social and civic constitution of a country that for many decades has been an example of social struggle and dignity.”

A journalist holds a picture of her murdered colleague during a protest.
Most attacks on journalists come from state agencies or local authorities.
21 Weltzeit 2023
picture alliance / AA/Daniel Cardenas
Environmental journalism in Brazil remains dangerous

Brazil is one of the most dangerous countries for conservationists. According to a 2022 report by the nongovernmental organization Global Witness, one in five murders of environmentalists occurred in Brazil over the past decade. The vast majority of the murders occurred in the Amazon. Most of the victims were indigenous people.

Those who want to tell the story of these people are also in danger. The non-governmental organization Reporters Without Borders lists the

Amazon rainforest as one of the most dangerous regions for environmental journalism in its press freedom ranking.

DW reporter Nádia Pontes knows this all too well. Attempts to intimidate her are routine in the numerous environmental reports she has written for DW’s Brazilian service in recent years. She experienced the most dangerous situation of her career during an operation by the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama against illegal gold miners in Kaypa Indian Territory. The helicopter in which she was accompanying Ibama’s agents was fired upon with heavy gunfire.

Fortunately, no one was injured. “On the same mission, we had to leave a guesthouse in the early morning hours. I was working on the computer when I heard the receptionist giving information about our team to someone on the phone. To avoid an ambush, we quickly left the place.”

Environmental journalism in Brazil is dangerous because it works with superlatives. The first of these is the economic component: Indigenous and conservation areas in the region bordering Peru, Colombia and Venezuela are threatened by illegal logging, mining and the transnational drug trade that uses the

Text Francis Franca, Head of DW Brazilian Service
Weltzeit 2023 23
An indigneous man with “Mining Kills” painted on his back.
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Eraldo Peres

region’s rivers to bring cocaine to ports and ultimately to the European market. Journalists who report on the damage these activities cause to biodiversity and indigenous populations stand in the way of the interests of criminal organizations that move billions of euros each year.

However, the exorbitant sums earned from environmental destruction are tiny when compared to the importance that an intact forest has for the planet. With its “flying rivers,” the immense amount of rain that the rainforest produces, the Amazon regulates precipitation throughout South America and stabilizes the world’s climate.

To preserve the forest despite the greed of organized crime, another superlative must be managed: the area to be protected. Brazilian authorities must control an area in the Amazon that is larger than all

the countries of the European Union combined and that’s not even taking into account other important ecosystems such as the Cerrado and the Atlantic Rainforest. Many regions are difficult to access and can only be reached after hours of travel by boat or by plane. These are regions that the state does not penetrate. And thus they become lawless areas.

In one of these regions, the Javari Valley, the British journalist Dom Philips and the indigenous expert Bruno Pereira were murdered in 2022. The case attracted international attention and revealed again the violence that Global Witness had already noted in its report on the murders of environmentalists.

Pereira was a frequent source for DW reports on violence against indigenous peoples as an employee of the Funai indigenous agency.

We live in terror in the Amazon.
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Lucas Dumphreys
Men search for gold at an illegal mine in the Amazon jungle.

He always asked not to be named because he was subject to death threats. “We live in terror in the Amazon,” he told reporter Nádia Pontes in 2020, referring to his work during the government of Jair Bolsonaro, under which structures to control and fight environmental crimes in Brazil had been dismantled, encouraging the practice of illegal activities on indigenous lands and in protected areas. While environmental authorities were weakened and given fewer resources and personnel, organized crime in the Amazon reached unprecedented levels of complexity.

The most dramatic consequence of these policies was the famine of the indigenous Yanomami people, which made headlines around the world in January 2023 when newly elected President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited Yanomami land. Images of malnourished women and children shocked the world. Close to 600 Yanomami children have died of malnutrition in the last four years. The crisis was triggered by illegal gold miners who destroyed the forest, contaminated rivers with mercury and spread disease.

The new government is at least showing interest in protecting the Amazon. Regulators are being rearmed to fight environmental crimes and drive out invaders. But environmental protection and environmental journalism remain dangerous even under Lula da Silva. For example, the base that Ibama and the federal police set up to evict gold miners and regain control of Yanomami land was attacked by gunmen a few weeks later.

Despite the risk, Nádia Pontes says she is not afraid: “For my research, I spend a certain amount of time in these places and then return home. The greatest danger is borne by the environmentalists who stay in the area, continue to give tips to the authorities and thus become the target of criminal organizations.”

© Michael Dantas / AFP via Getty Images © Nádia Pontes Aerial view of an illegal logging operation in Humaitá, Brazil.
25 Weltzeit 2023
Nádia Pontes covers environmental issues for DW in Brazil.
© Contributor / Getty Images 26 RUSSIA

What do Russians think?

DW’s Konstantin Eggert

with Natalia Zubarevich, a Russian specialist in socio-economic development.

How has the war in Ukraine affected the life of Russians so far?

If we take the large urban population, the first factor is those who left. Figures vary, but cumulatively from spring to fall at least 300,000 people left the country. This is a substantial loss of human capital.

While the Russian population is used to losing income, we are still at the level of income of around 2012. Ten years down the drain. The minimum wage was raised by 10 % while the cost of living increased by 10 %, which means that more people will be able to claim social assistance. In this crisis, the biggest blow came to the educated, urban, professional population. No one is going to help them in any way.

Do you think the Russian authorities have a strategy to deal with the declining workforce in industries like high tech?

I don’t have an answer to your question, because the policy of the authorities is incredibly contradictory. But the fact is that we want to bring back those who are needed, yes. And for the rest, well, the attitude is “go to hell”.

Russia’s economy is beginning to feel the weight of Western sanctions, following the start of the war against Ukraine.

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In Russia, payments for those killed in war are like anesthesia.

Though several hundred-thousand men were drafted, one can’t see much discontent. Was there no real effect of the mobilization at all?

Initially, it was very hard on the labor market, because it was mainly bluecollar workers who were drafted. And we have industries in which the workforce is predominantly male. This is the agricultural sector, construction, transportation, manufacturing. There are staffing problems there, there is no one to replace these people. There are already issues in construction, it is also difficult to find workers for the defense industry. The logic for many who were drafted is simple: they did not earn much and were promised much more. That is why families, already burdened with loans, said, “at least something will be earned, it will be easier.” People are poor. 12 % of the population lives below the very modest Russian subsistence level. And another 13 % just above that level. The money they were promised looks fantastic. People are strapped with credit, living from paycheck to paycheck.

But they don’t just go there to die, they go to kill.

A large part of the Russian population is quite satisfied with the propaganda they receive from Russian television. Poor people, as a rule, live for today. This is Russia’s misfortune, this is Russia’s problem. But you can’t accuse these people of anything. They are surviving. People have three choices. The first is obedience. They went where they were told. This is the reaction of the majority. The second is protest. And there are fewer and fewer of these reckless people, because there are risks and consequences. And the third is avoidance. The urban population chose avoidance and left the state. And the bulk of the population, not having the resources, nor an understanding of the situation, chose obedience and went where the state told them to go.

Is there some level of sacrifice at which people will begin to worry? When might the mood change, even in this poor, docile Russia?

I’m not a sociologist, but I’m well aware that quite generous payments for the dead and wounded calm the families down. Huge benefits for their children to get into higher education are also a

Natalia Zubarevich

bonus. And people are told that their children died for their homeland. All this together so far works as an anesthesia for a large part of the population.

What will regional authorities do when they begin to realize that they have a real shortage of personnel, that taxes are falling? Will they go to Moscow and ask for more oil money?

So far, problems are piling up, first of all, in the federal budget. But the federal budget has money to draw from. 2022 was a special year. From January to May 2022, the Russian federal budget received 2.6 times more oil and gas revenues than the year before. In October, we exported and produced more than a year ago. All of this provided a huge cash cushion for the federal budget. Clearly, this can’t go on forever. 2023 will realistically be a much more problematic year for the federal budget. Legislation has been passed to raise taxes and duties on all export industries. We have already unlocked the National Welfare Fund. The next step is domestic borrowing.

In the case of a new mobilization, are some segments of the population still economically able to emigrate, or are they already exhausted?

Why declare a new mobilization when you can quietly pull out the people you need according to their military professions? Quietly, gently, little by little. The authorities are getting smarter too.

is a Russian economistgeographer specializing on the socio-economic development of the regions. She has been the professor of the Department of Economic And Social Geography of Russia of the Moscow State University since 2005.

A large part of the Russian population is quite satisfied with the propaganda.

Delivering justice for the war crimes in Ukraine

Russia’s war against Ukraine has shattered millions of lives, wrecked Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, and brought Europe back to the days of trench warfare and major battles not seen on the continent since World War II. Russia launched its full-scale invasion having already breached Ukraine sovereignty in occupying Crimea in 2014 and operating pro-Kremlin armed groups in eastern Ukraine. That the international community finally issued a firm response to the mounting atrocities that unfolded in Ukraine after the escalation is a positive precedent, paving a path to justice.

The question is whether we can make sure this will make a difference?

As part of the response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, multilateral organizations and many Western governments swiftly and

exceptionally engaged a range of accountability mechanisms and tools, underscoring the importance of criminal justice for serious crimes committed there.

On March 2, 2022, the International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor opened an investigation into alleged serious crimes in Ukraine following a request by an unprecedent number of ICC member countries. Judicial officials in several countries have also opened criminal investigations using their national laws to examine serious crimes committed in Ukraine. On March 4, the United Nations Human Rights Council established an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to collect, analyze and consolidate evidence of violations, identifying those responsible where possible with a view to ensuring accountability.

Text Tirana Hassan The human cost of the war in Ukraine has been catastrophic.
29 Weltzeit 2023
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Rodrigo Abd

Ukrainian authorities are also conducting their own criminal investigations. To support these efforts, many governments have offered Ukraine evidentiary, technical, and operational assistance to bolster its judicial capacity.

Meanwhile, journalists have been reporting on the war in Ukraine, showing the immense civilian suffering and the gratuitous cruelty of Russian forces. Ukrainian and international non-governmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, have also been documenting abuses as they occur with a view to helping inform and in some cases support the accountability efforts to ensure justice for the crimes being committed in Ukraine.

From the earliest days of the full-scale invasion, Russian forces have showed unconscionable disregard for civilian life. They pummeled densely populated cities. They killed or injured hundreds of civilians in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, in the first 11 days of the invasion alone, indiscriminately bombing and shelling heavily populated areas with cluster munitions and explosive weapons with wide-area effect. They laid siege to Mariupol, turning this port city into a veritable hellscape.

A number of Russia’s violations have been emblematic of the conflict. Among them is the widespread and repeated targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, which Human Rights Watch and other groups documented.

This tactic, apparently designed to instill terror among civilians in violation of the laws of war, has deprived millions of Ukrainians of regular access to electricity, water and heat in the dead of winter – cruelty that Russian policymakers and state media commentators applauded.

Russian attacks have also led to heavy civilian casualties. One such strike was the April 8 cluster munition attack on the Kramatorsk train station, a

major evacuation hub for civilians fleeing the fighting in eastern Ukraine, killing at least 58 civilians and injuring more than 100 others. A 10-month intensive investigation led Human Rights Watch to conclude that Russia launched this attack with disregard for the lives of the hundreds of civilians at the station that morning, making it an apparent war crime.

Another high-civilian casualty Russian attack, and one that should be investigated by judicial officials as a potential war crime, was the June 27 missile strike that hit a busy shopping center in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine, killing at least 21 people and wounding dozens of others. Human Rights Watch, in an intensive investigation found no evidence of military targets in the vicinity, contrary to the Russian government’s claims

Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Britain’s Karim Khan (3rd L), visits a mass grave in Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv.

Russian forces have showed unconscionable disregard for civilian life.
© Fadel Senna / AFP

that the Ukrainian government stored weapons in the adjacent industrial complex and that the mall was empty.

Media and human rights groups, including Human Rights Watch, have also documented Russian forces’ summary executions and other killings of dozens of civilians, conflict-related sexual violence, enforced disappearances, and torture all war crimes in areas Russian-occupied areas. The city of Bucha, in Kyivska region, has become a symbol for Russian forces’ atrocities as an occupier, but evidence of the same types of abuses is plentiful elsewhere.

In Izium, which Russian forces occupied for six months, almost all of more than 100 people Human Rights Watch interviewed said that they had a family member or friend who had been tortured. In Kherson region, researchers came across at least 52 cases in which Russian occupation forces either forcibly disappeared civilians or otherwise held them arbitrarily, many of whom were tortured.

Russia’s response to all allegations of abuse is a predictable wall of lies and denial. In some cases, though, comments by officials help implicate Russia in potential war crimes.

One example concerns Russia’s forcible transfer, or deportation to Russia or occupied territories, of Ukrainian children displaced by the war, a war crime. Much of what we know about this comes from top Russian officials, including President Vladimir Putin’s children’s rights commissioner and others who have staged photo-ops with these Ukrainian children.

Russia’s efforts to destroy Ukrainian culture is among its litany of crimes. Russian forces have systematically pillaged valuable artifacts and artworks, imposed Russian-language school curriculums in places they occupied, and used beatings and torture for forced “russification” in occupied areas.

Accurate and thorough documentation of these atrocities now, while memories are fresh and physical evidence is available, is crucial to ensure justice in courts of law. What is clear given the scale of the violations, is that a multitiered, cross-cutting approach is needed, which will require sustained resources and effective coordination by a range of actors, primarily the Ukrainian authorities, but involving the ICC, judicial officials in third countries, and others. This goodwill needs to be translated into political stamina and strategy to ensure the breadth of abuses are addressed effectively, credibly and comprehensively.

Russian forces are responsible for the overwhelming majority of abuses. Still, allegations of abuse by Ukrainian forces should be duly investigated, with those responsible be held to account in a fair trial. Measures should also be put in place to protect lawyers representing them. Effective justice, after all, means impartial justice.

The substantial global response to crimes in Ukraine showed what’s possible when governments come together, but the absence of a similar response to address grave crimes elsewhere like Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Palestine brought into sharp relief the international community’s double standards. This inconsistency risks eroding the credibility of the entire international justice system.

The challenge is to leverage the world’s response to the war in Ukraine to deliver impartial, comprehensive justice wherever it is needed by ensuring consistent financial, political, and practical support for credible accountability efforts. The international community can and should strengthen the justice response worldwide and replicate this principled support in other contexts where civilians pay the highest price for unbridled impunity.

Tirana Hassan is executive director of Human Rights Watch. @tiranahassan
31 Weltzeit 2023
The city of Bucha has become a symbol for Russian forces’ atrocities, but evidence is plentiful elsewhere.

More than 8 million Ukrainians found themselves abroad, mostly in the EU in 2022, according to the UN. A similar number of Ukrainians have been displaced internally. As the war continues, how many of them will be able and willing to go back? What kind of life awaits them?

On the surface it would seem simple and logical: people flee the war and the destruction of their homes. Once the war will be over most of them should plan to go back to restore their lives in a familiar environment, some mostly those, whose towns and homes were destroyed would seek either to move elsewhere in Ukraine or stay where they found refuge.

Reality is more complicated. Many Ukrainian refugees perceive going back home not literally going back where they came from, but also going back to the old time and old lifestyles they enjoyed. Some, who tried to come back, or visit have learned that returning now is not possible. The war has destroyed not only the buildings and infrastructure. It has also changed the ways people went about their lives. For many of them there is no way back, only forward.

The war has catalyzed the already ongoing political and social transformation. Over the years people, who were favorable of Russia, have moved through a period of ambivalence, and eventually incrementally joined the motion towards Western values and the EU. Now that choice has become almost unanimous from grassroots up. A change of political orientations goes beyond language, religion, ethnicity or place of birth. Ukraine that was tilting towards greater unity for some time has decisively become a country divided no more.

Most Ukrainians have come to the painful realization that Russians of different political affiliations share a similar colonial sentiment that drives the war against Ukraine. Sociologically, Russia has gone from being viewed as a friend by most Ukrainians to being viewed as a foe by almost all. And where the fault lines still exist, they went through families, friendships, business partnerships, consumer loyalties and ruptured relations with little hope for healing them fast, or ever. Social media multiply the stories of relatives being disowned striking cases for the society where family is usually the last bastion of unconditional acceptance against any kind of hostile challenges.

Economy has transformed, too. The fate of many Soviet heavy industry giants, mostly in the occupied East of Ukraine, was sealed by advancing Russian army. The demise weakens industrial oligarchy, whose seats at the political decision-making table are no longer granted. While loss of heavy industry is a painful economic shock, it also opens new development paths. The younger and more educated Ukrainians dispersed across Ukraine and abroad in search of security and new opportunities. However, the shock unproportionately hit the oldest and least adaptive Ukrainians, full of paternalistic expectations. They are the

Ukrainians leave the country in search of safety.
© picture alliance / NurPhoto / Artur Widak

The new Ukrainian reality

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ones most likely to stay where they are, despite the frontline changes, and try to survive clinging to their windowless flats, smashed furniture and hoping that somehow life will come back to normal. That hope is rather irrational and represents the legacy of the world these people once lived in, where the state cares for people who give up their agency.

The demography of Ukrainian refugees is diverse, but not really representative of Ukraine. At the beginning of the war the two biggest cities in Ukraine the capital Kyiv and its former early Soviet capital Kharkiv were under fire and risk of capture. Their residents made up a great part of those who left. Not aware how the events on the ground would play out, many people decided that it was safer to stay in the suburbs of Kyiv than inside the city, where service or supply disruption could be disastrous. Those who moved to Bucha or other nearby towns often went through hell. Others went further West or even abroad to a safer uncertainty.

Many fleeing residents had much to lose. Among refugees both in Ukraine and outside the number of skilled, experienced, university-educated, multilingual people, and those with accessible savings was greater than national average. Some were more prepared for the war than the others, but a significant number had a safety net to sustain them at least several months. The larger Ukrainian cities away from the war zone were flooded with people. Hotels were overbooked, flat rents skyrocketed, local authorities organized makeshift shelters in gyms and schools. Lots of Ukrainians moved in with their relatives and friends. Eventually, the waves reached smaller towns. In some places the number of residents doubled, compensating for many years of population decline, bringing long abandoned realty back in

service, improving consumer economy, supplying rare skills and talent to the suffocating local job market. Often the entrepreneurs would run crowdfunding campaigns to restart their businesses in the new places. It took about half a year for things to become clear again: some businesses closed, others were looking to replace their conscripted employees, a few were trying to seek new opportunities. In general, the small business economy has become more resilient than expected, often offering lifelines to those in dire need.

A great number of people took volunteering tasks,

forming unprecedented networks, supplying the army with drones, night-vision sets, importing second-hand SUVs for the frontline or sending money to professional foundations that managed to buy a satellite already in space or import sophisticated technology. Volunteering became an ultimate manifestation of empathy, a bonding process in a torn society, helping people to cope, get a sense of belonging, reaffirm their dignity. Many refugees would volunteer in kind, offering their skills to the community.

As Russian troops were pushed back in the North of Ukraine, residents started

The lack of jobs, constant air raids and severe electricity shortages forced many to leave again.
Rebuilding begins as soon as Russian forces retreat.
© Jose Colon / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

returning to Kyiv and other cities. However, the lack of jobs, constant air raids and severe electricity shortages forced many to leave again. Others stayed, trying to adjust their lifestyles to always being under a vivid threat.

It was not until early summer of 2022, when the Ukrainian border service witnessed for the first time that more Ukrainians crossed the border into Ukraine, than out. The Ukrainian government prohibited most men aged 18-60 (except those with three or more underage children, or single caretakers, or those with a special government-issued permission) from leaving the country, so the majority of international refugees are women with underage children. Giving their children the best education possible has become a key priority for Ukrainians abroad. Many will likely prefer to stay until the children end their school, but some keep their children in the Ukrainian online classes as well, signaling that they would like to return as soon as it becomes feasible.

The Ukrainian migration of 2022 is in many ways an untypical one. Studies show that the migrants stay very attached to Ukraine. They go an extra mile to protect their identity and, unlike the previous wave of Ukrainian migration in the 1990s, are determined to pass it on to the next generation. They are driven to start or expand existing Ukrainian institutions and are searching for ways to build up political influence. Despite the initial shocks, this wave of Ukrainian migration is more self-aware, has clear goals, is looking to become instrumental in a greater cause of saving Ukraine and persuading the outside world of the danger of leaving the business of defending Ukraine half-done. The fear of a deceitful truce that would allow Russia to regroup and attack again is a strong motivating force for majority of active Ukrainians.

How many of the displaced people will be able to go home very much depends on how the war ends. Will Putin be defeated? Will Russian colonialism come to an end? Will China or Iran throw a lifeline to Russia that would allow the war of attrition to last indefinitely? The answers to these and many other questions will define personal strategies of the people affected by the war. Rebuilding will be often delayed by the need of demining. Even in the best-case scenario this war has and will continue to produce major economic, demographic, social shifts inside Ukraine that may last for generations. But the new Ukraine is filled with a new sense of agency and eager to become a success story.

Yevhen Hlibovytsky

runs a boutique think tank researching Ukraine’s social transformation. He is also a lecturer at Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv.


The nonprofit organization ”We repair all together” is committed to helping people rebuild their own homes.

35 Weltzeit 2023
© picture alliance / AA / Jose Colon

Bringing aggressors to justice

On February 24, 2022, Russia began an open, fullscale invasion of the territory of Ukraine. It was the third phase of the international armed conflict that started with the act of Russian aggression against Ukraine in February 2014, which led to the occupation of Crimea and continued with the occupation of parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

International response was soft, it did not include massive economic sanctions against Russia, or attempts to prosecute Russian leaders for the crime of aggression.

It was only after the fullscale invasion of Ukraine in 2022, accompanied by massive violations of international humanitarian law and human rights, that a shocked international community began to respond and to call a spade a spade in March 2022, 141 countries, against five, out of 193 countries adopted the UN General Assembly (GA) resolution condemning “the

aggression by the Russian Federation against Ukraine”.

The ICC jurisdiction: gaps and challenges

Since the beginning of the large-scale invasion, the ICC Prosecutor announced that he had proceeded to open an investigation, and on March 17, 2023, the ICC issued arrest warrants for Putin and one of his minions, the children’s ombudswoman Maria Lvova-Belova, for alleged war crimes committed in Ukraine namely the deportation of children. According to Art. 27 of the Rome Statute, Putin has no immunity from the ICC, even as a sitting president.

The significance of these arrest warrants cannot be overstated. It means that the 123 States Parties to the ICC are not only able, but obliged, to arrest the President of Russia. It also means that the rest of the world has the right do the same, although they are

Text Oksana Senatorova People hang a painting at an exhibition dedicated to the liberation of Bucha.
37 Weltzeit 2023
© Maksym Polishchuk/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

not obliged by the Rome Statute. From a head of state who, at the beginning of 2022, had a queue of visitors eager to sit at his very long table, Putin has become an outcast.

There are, nevertheless, many risks of undermining the ICC’s authority through political games. Currently, there is a broad discussion about the future of Putin’s visit to the BRICS summit in South Africa, which as an ICC member, is obliged to arrest him, though it also has long-standing close relations with Russia. Hungary has said it would not arrest Putin, referring to the lack of national legislation on cooperation with the Court.

Most importantly, while the ICC will continue to consider evidence of other crimes committed by Putin and his clique, it cannot yet prosecute them for the crime of aggression. As a result of a political compromise, the ICC’s jurisdiction over the crime of aggression is more limited than over other crimes. The referral of the situation in question to the ICC by the UN Security Council is also impossible as long as Putin remains acting president and controls the use of the Russian veto in the UN SC.

Even more cynical is the fact that on April 1, 2023 Russia took the chair in the UN SC. The very fact that an aggressor state will lead a body created to combat the use of force and large-scale human rights violations is beyond common sense.

In October 2022, the UN GA adopted a resolution, stressing the need to establish conditions under which the ICC could exercise jurisdiction with respect to the crime of aggression. The ICC strongly supports this idea. There are various proposals as to how this could be done, e.g. bringing jurisdiction over the crime of aggression to the common denominator with other crimes; thus providing for the possibility of the General Assembly referring the situation to the ICC bypassing the UN SC. Although it is clear, that

any amendment will take time and it may end with more compromise, it is the right way. The way out could be easily found, i.e. through ratification of the Rome Statute and acceptance of the amendment, but there is no guarantee that Russia would do that even in case of a regime change.

That is why parallel efforts should be made to create a functioning mechanism of accountability for the crime of aggression committed by Putin and his entourage. The crime of aggression is, as the Nuremberg Judgement stated, “the supreme international crime <… containing> within itself the accumulated evil of the whole”. If we do not prosecute it per se, we open the door to chaos: any leader can commit acts of aggression, knowing that the system of deterrence will not work.

The circle of those persons in the Russian leadership, who committed the crime of aggression, does not necessarily overlap with the circle of war criminals, which means that without the creation of a

Oksana Senatorova

is Director of the Research Centre for Transitional Justice at Yaroslav Mudryi National Law University, Kharkiv, Ukraine.

A poster reads “Wanted dead or alive. Vladimir Putin for genocide”
© Jakub Porzycki / NurPhoto via Getty Images

mechanism to prosecute the aggression, its perpetrators might reach the haven of impunity.

Most importantly, the circle of victims of the crime of aggression is by no means the same as the circle of victims of other international crimes. The aggression destroys the entire human rights architecture of the country against which it is unleashed, causing direct, indirect and cascading damage in all spheres of life: thousands of Ukrainians, both, combatants and civilians, have lost their lives and health, millions became IDPs and refugees, have lost and continue to lose their jobs, housing, education and other social, economic and environmental rights. All of this calls for international cooperation in creating an effective accountability mechanism where the voice of victims and survivors of the crime of aggression is duly taken into account.

Filing the gap

Immediately after the large-scale invasion in 2022, the idea to create a special tribunal to prosecute Russian leadership for the crime of aggression was born. There were many different proposals from outstanding international and Ukrainian lawyers and politicians, non-governmental organizations which were supported by UN GA resolutions and in-depth analysis and echoed in the reports of human rights institutions.

In February this year, the EU announced the creation of the new International Centre for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine (ICPA) to be set up in The Hague. Its main purpose is to enhance investigations into the crime of aggression by securing key evidence and facilitating the process of case-building at an early stage.

Now the Ukrainian President’s Office is considering three models of a special tribunal for the crime of Russian

aggression against Ukraine. The first option is the establishment of a Special Tribunal on the basis of an agreement between Ukraine and the UN, with the adoption of a corresponding resolution by the UN GA, which carries the risk of postponing the start of a tribunal’s work because of the need to gather a sufficient number of votes. Second the establishment of the tribunal on the basis of a multilateral open international agreement between the states of the civilised world the so-called “Nuremberg model”.

Third option is the establishment of the hybrid court under Ukrainian law and jurisdiction, i.e., as part of the Ukrainian judicial system, with varying degrees of internationalisation, such as international judges and prosecutors, a location in Europe, international support etc. Apologists for this idea include France, Germany, the UK and the USA, partly due to some of them having limited the ICC’s jurisdiction over aggression, mainly because they want to avoid the risk of setting up similar tribunals against themselves and prefer not to confront the Global South by granting exclusivity to Ukraine and blind-spotting their alleged precedents of illegal use of force (e.g. in Iraq, 2003).

The first two options are preferable for Ukraine because they would demonstrate the world’s readiness to deter criminals who commit aggression, provide broader legitimacy and eliminate the problems of personal immunities of officials of the aggressor. If the hybrid tribunal would not be endorsed by the UN GA, CoE or the EU, or a larger number of states, it would not be international in nature, which means that personal immunity would continue to apply to members of government and the same could be relevant for the functional immunities.

The ICC has taken the initiative by issuing the arrest warrant against Putin, and now he is in danger of being arrested

in at least 123 countries. However, it should be remembered that the ICC cannot prosecute him for the crime of aggression and cannot “share” its power to revoke personal immunity with another, less international tribunal. Moreover, other members of the Russian government with personal immunities, namely Sergey Lavrov and Mikhail Mishustin, are still without ICC warrants, as are many other Russian officials with functional immunities who took part in the decision to invade Ukraine and should therefore be prosecuted for the crime of aggression. The option of setting up the International Tribunal along the lines of one of the first two models might already be feasible among the coalition of states supporting the idea.

The lack of enforcement tools in existing international law to deter aggression should not be a reason for pessimism but a cause to further strengthen the system of international criminal justice and reinforce the inevitability of prosecution for this supreme international crime. For this reason, the ICC Statute should be improved to make it the most appropriate institution to prosecute the crime of aggression. Until the ICC is reformed, all senior Russian and Belarusian officials who have committed the crime of aggression should be brought to justice by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Crime of Aggression based on an international agreement.

39 Weltzeit 2023
The aggression destroys the entire human rights architecture of the country against which it is unleashed.

Belarus: The Nobel Peace Prize

behind bars

In 2022, Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist imprisoned in Belarus, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His wife Natalia Pinchuk accepted it on his behalf in Oslo. She gave a powerful speech about freedom, democracy and human rights in Belarus, something her husband has been advocating for two decades.

60-year-old human rights activist Bialiatski was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and his colleagues from the Human Rights Center “Vyazna” (Spring), Valentin Stefanovich to nine and Vladimir Labkovich to seven years. They were accused of “smuggling” money for human rights activities and “financing protests.” Bialiatski and his colleagues had helped people who were arrested during mass protests against the rigged presidential election in Belarus in 2020.

The international community considers the trial politically motivated and the sentences a “judicial disgrace”. DW spoke with Natalia Pinchuk about her husband’s conviction, the Nobel Prize, the war in Ukraine, repression, about her life and her hopes.

Mrs. Pinchuk, how do you personally experience what happened?

The verdict hit me hard, because I am aware of the situation Ales and other political prisoners are in. I already had to go through the first arrest of Ales, which makes it even worse, because I know what it means. (In 2011, Bialiatski was sentenced to 4.5 years in prison, but was released after three years by ruler Alexander Lukashenko under pressure from the world community ed.) Ten years is a long time. In Belarus, opponents of the government get up to 25 years in prison… For some, given their age and unbearable prison conditions, that means life in prison. A sentence of 10 years is supposed to destroy health and the human being itself. You can’t just accept that.

Ales Bialiatski

60-year-old human rights activist Bialiatski helped people who were arrested during mass protests against the rigged presidential election in Belarus in 2020.

Do you believe the Nobel Prize somehow influenced the verdict?

The fact that the trial was not held behind closed doors was most likely a reaction to the prize and an effort to show that it meant nothing to the Belarusian authorities. It was meant to challenge the West. The authorities

© Vitaly Pivovarchik / BELTA / AFP via Getty Images
Nobel Prize winner Ales Bialiatski (C) and his associates Valentin Stefanovich (L) and Vladimir Labkovich (R) in the courtroom.

tried to portray the human rights activists as criminals in order not to make the verdict look politically motivated, but to link it to smuggling… But they did not succeed in this.

What has the Nobel Prize changed in relation to your husband and other political prisoners?

The most important thing is that the prize has drawn attention to what terrible things are happening in Belarus. The daily terror, the repressions have not stopped since 2020. Hundreds of people are detained, every day there are arrests. The official number of about 1500 political prisoners is tiny compared to the real number, because we don’t know anything about many of them. At the moment, there is no hope for Ales and his colleagues from “Vyazna” to be released. Their wives and I, we have to arrange our lives somehow. I lived with Ales for 35 years, it is hard not to have him around, you have to get used to it every day. For now I’ll stay away from Belarus, for how long is hard to say.

Do you have any information about your husband, about how he is coping?

There is little possibility of getting any information. There is correspondence, but not all his letters reach me, and not all mine reach him. Ten years ago, lawyers could hand over something. Now they keep quiet because they could lose their license or be thrown in jail themselves. One of Ales’ lawyers has already been sentenced to a long prison term, and another has had his license revoked… Defending human rights activists is a dangerous occupation.

Is there sufficient support for your husband’s case?

There is support for Ales, especially from the Ukrainian side, to whom I am very grateful. The fact that Belarus is also considered an aggressor worsens the position of Belarusians, although in this situation Belarusians as a people are blameless. For the most part they support Ukrainians that should be known. Belarusians are not Russians, they have no imperial ambitions, they

do not need war. It is necessary to distinguish the position of the state power, and for whom the people are. On February 24, Belarusians took out the Ukrainian flag in Minsk. Meanwhile, there are laws that say people risk their lives if they show support for Ukraine.

What would you like to see from the international community, from European politicians?

I would like to see solidarity shown in concrete actions. Imprisoning people is also a blow to their families, who need to be helped so they can help their relatives in prison and themselves. Many are forced to emigrate; they too need help, at least initially, until they find work. In Belarus, “purges” are underway, anyone deemed disloyal to the state power loses their job. Getting another one is almost impossible. I see this as a real opportunity for the EU to support people, to give them a chance to survive. And hopefully, EU policymakers will also find ways to take steps that contribute to the release of political prisoners.

© picture alliance / Associated Press / Markus Schreiber
41 Weltzeit 2023
Natalia Pinchuk, the wife of Ales Bialiatski speaks during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

DW A brief history


Democratic as well as authoritarian developments and upheavals in countries or regions have always triggered in the short or the medium term strategic and operational changes within DW, as well as adjustments in regard to its programming and priorities. In many cases, these adjustments have meant recruiting and onboarding staff from new target regions and expanding editorial teams and program offerings. In some cases, albeit few, it was possible to scale back or even discontinue programming in view of positive developments in a broadcasting region and to redirect the tax-funded budget to other purposes.

In the early decades, the international media landscape and the coverage of political and social affairs were much more manageable than they are today. For DW’s management, however, reliable insider information has always been indispensable to anticipate and report on emerging conflicts, upheavals and other important events. Collaboration with national and international institutions, both governmental and non-governmental, as well as interaction with other media professionals, have enabled those in charge to assess the current situation in regions near and far, and to derive appropriate strategies for DW.

Thus, the target groups, broadcasting regions and fields of operation of the international broadcaster have changed over the past seven decades. DW journalists have covered wars and peace agreements, crises and progress, disasters and moments of hope, the rise and fall of governments, and the beginning and the end of ideological movements.

Innovative broadcasting formats for radio, TV, the internet and social media have been introduced and the thematic

focus has been broadened. For a global audience aged 14 to 40, DW today focuses on multimedia, educational and a wide variety of content around these key topics:

– Democracy and good governance

– Freedom and human rights

– Technology and innovation

– Health education, nutrition and environmental protection

– German and European culture

– Free trade and social justice

On the one hand, the proliferation of traditional and social media alone in recent decades has fostered freedom and diversity of opinion in many places. On the other hand, inaccurate reporting as well as targeted disinformation has been a source of confusion and insecurity for people. This seemingly unstoppable development has spread to industrialized nations and highly-educated societies, with studies showing a decline in media literacy. That’s why the need for quality journalism and fact-based news and information worldwide has never been greater. And DW is one of the most important international providers.

Since 1964, DW Akademie, Deutsche Welle’s center for international media development, journalism training and knowledge transfer, has run projects in more than 60 countries. DW Akademie is working with partners to create access to reliable information and to facilitate constructive dialogue and the exchange of ideas based on facts.

Over the next few years, DW will continue to expand its reach by following a “digital-first” strategy and expanding its on-demand offerings, available independent of time and place.

There are nations out there whose rulers are allergic to democratic values and they all have one thing in common: DW will be there.
Director General Peter Limbourg
Since DW was founded in the spring of 1953, the history of Germany’s international broadcaster has been closely linked with historical milestones and important events in Europe and beyond.
43 Weltzeit 2023
Text Vera Tellman, Head of Corporate Communications

Europe and the World


UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Establishment of the State of Israel

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)

Korean War

Cuban Revolution

FRG and GDR become sovereign states

West Germany joins NATO

Warsaw Pact

European Court of Human Rights

Change of government in Indonesia

17 African states gain independence

Construction of the Berlin Wall

Afghanistan becomes a democracy

Cultural Revolution in China

Military coup in Greece

Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia

First moon landing

Portugal’s African colonies gain independence

Independence of Bangladesh

FRG and GDR join the UN Yom Kippur War

Fall of Saigon marks the end of the Vietnam War

Beginning of genocide in Cambodia

End of Francoist dictatorship in Spain

Soviet invasion of Afghanistan Iranian Revolution

Beginning of Solidarność in Poland

1948 1949 1950 1953 1955 1959 1960 1961 1964 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970s 1971 1973 1975 1979 1980
1961 1969 1953 44 YEARS DW

1953 DW radio goes on air for the first time on May 3

1954 First news programs in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese

1957 Start of language course “Learn German at Deutsche Welle”

1960 DW becomes an independent broadcaster

1962 Broadcast languages Indonesian, Turkish, Persian


1962-3 Eastern European broadcast languages (Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Slovak, Serbian, Croatian, Bulgarian, Slovenian and Romanian)


1963-65 African broadcast languages (Kiswahili, Amharic, Hausa)

1964 Founding of DW Akademie

Broadcast languages Greek, Urdu, Hindi

1965 Broadcast language Chinese

1967 Expansion of program offerings in Greek

1970 Broadcast languages Dari and Pashto

1975 Broadcast languages Bengali, Portuguese for Africa

1979 Expansion of program offerings in Dari, Pashto

1953 1954 1957 1960
Deutsche Welle
1964 1965 1967 1970 1975 1979

Europe and the World

Beginning of Perestroika in the Soviet Union

Fall of the Berlin Wall

Tiananmen Square Massacre in Beijing

War breaks out in Yugoslavia

German government moves from Bonn to Berlin

German Reunification

End of the Soviet Union

End of apartheid in South Africa

two years after Nelson Mandela’s release

Genocide in Rwanda

Genocide in Srebrenica

Handover of Hongkong

September 11 terrorist attacks in the USA

European sovereign debt crisis

Parliamentary elections in Hungary, followed by restrictions on press freedom

Beginning of the ”Arab Spring“

Civil war breaks out in Syria

Beginning of the Black Lives Matter movement in the US

Record migration to Europe

Terrorist attacks in Paris

Attempted coup in Turkey, followed by a strong decline in press freedom

Terrorist attack in Berlin

International #MeToo debate

Terror attack in Sri Lanka

Deadly coronavirus puts the world under lockdown

Withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan

Russian invasion of Ukraine

Mass protests in Iran after 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini dies in police custody

1985 1989 1990 1991 1992 1994 1995 1997 2001 2008 2010 2011 2013 2015 2016 2017 2019 2020 2021 2022
2015 1989 2001 46 YEARS DW

Deutsche Welle

1989 Expansion of program offerings in Chinese

1990 Commencement of war reporting in Serbian, Croatian, Slovenian, Macedonian, Albanian (from 1992) and Bosnian (from 1998)

1992 DW launches a daily television program from the premises of the RIAS-TV station in Berlin

1994 Employees of the DW relay station in the Rwandan capital Kigali are trapped and are evacuated by Belgian forces

DW becomes the first German public service broadcaster to launch news websites. The first topic is the German federal election

1997 The DW Act defines DW as a non-profit, public service broadcaster

1998 After nearly 40 years, legal supervision of DW is transferred from the Federal Ministry of the Interior to the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media

2003 DW moves to nearby Bonn, Germany’s former capital, after 50 years in Cologne

2005 The promotion of the German language becomes part of DW’s mandate


The first DW Global Media Forum opens in Bonn

2011 DW becomes a member of the German employers’ initiative “Charta der Vielfalt” (Diversity Charter)

2015 DW launches the Freedom of Speech Award to honor individuals or initiatives that are particularly committed to freedom rights in countries with restricted freedom of expression, such as Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Turkey, Nigeria and Iran

2015-17 The First Steps and InfoMigrants projects provide multilingual information and services for refugees in Europe and people living in regions with high emigration rates

2019 Launch of multimedia platform +90 in support of freedom of expression in Turkey

2021 Broadcast language Tamil

Relaunch of Hungarian broadcast language

2022 Russian authorities shut DW bureau in Moscow, staff moves to Riga/Latvia. Expansion of DW Russian program offerings despite censorship

2022 Expansion of DW Persian program offerings despite censorship

1989 1990 1992 1994 1997 1998 2003 2005 2008 2011 2015 2015-2017 2019 2021 2022
2008 1994 2020 47

Our global network

DW is driving the regionalization of its reporting and has expanded its international capacity in recent years to cover events directly from the target regions. By working on the ground and with our regional partners, we ensure

that our content meets the interests and demands of our audience.

DW content is carried by around 5,000 international distribution partners. In 2022, DW reached 291 million weekly user contacts worldwide, despite

being censored in several countries. DW’s strategy of shifting output towards digital, especially in countries where press freedom is restricted, has been critical to the success of its formats in Russia, Turkey and Iran.

Mexico City Washington Bogotá Unique user contacts per week 41 Mio. NMO 45 Mio. Latin America 291 Mio. Total 37 Mio. Asia 84 Mio. Subsahara Africa 10 Mio. Eastern and Central Asia 38 Mio. Northern America 36 Mio. Europe


Berlin Bonn

Moscow currently Riga Kyiv







New Delhi



Kinshasa planned end 2023


Nairobi Jakarta


Cape Town

Warsaw Taipei
Studio Headquarters Correspondent bureau DW Akademie bureau 49 Weltzeit 2023

DW Greek: The echo of history

On April 21, 1967, a small band of conspirators led by Colonel Georgios Papadopoulos took power of the Kingdom of Greece through a military coup and imposed a seven-year dictatorship on the country. Censorship and control of public life, spying and fear now characterized people’s lives. The only free sources of information for the suppressed people were foreign broadcasters, such as BBC, Radio France or Radio Bucharest. DW commenced broadcasting a Greek program on shortwave in 1964. But it was not until 1969 that the small team of dedicated Greek journalists

decided to give the program for the Greek audience a distinctly regime-critical character. DW thus fulfilled one of its most important tasks: the commitment to democracy and freedom.

The experiment succeeded and the “Voice of Freedom” from Germany conquered Greek households despite a listening ban. “We were in constant tension, we could hardly sleep” remembers editor Danae Coulmas. “We felt the echo of history in the studio in Cologne, no, it was history live.” The Greek Program reported extensively on the activities of the resistance that was forming abroad.

Text Spiros Moskovou, Head of DW Greek Service

November 20, 1973: Burnt-out cars, furniture and other debris in the square outside Athens Polytechnic after a night of street battles around the time of the counter-coup which ousted Papadopoulos during the regime of the Greek Colonels.

I can’t now, I have to listen to Deutsche Welle. What is Deutsche Welle, I asked him. Deutsche Welle is the one that tells us the truth.
© Keystone / Getty Images
Weltzeit 2023 51

People learned for the first time about the fate of resistance fighters in Greece about arrests and torture. Through a wide network of sources, the Greek editorial team collected and disseminated all the important news that fell under the censorship of the Greek junta.

“I was a little boy then,” popular cabaret artist Lakis Lazopoulos recalls today. “The whole neighborhood at that time had their hair cut by an old barber who practiced his profession in his apartment. One evening I went to get my hair cut. But the old man sent me away. He said: I can’t now, I have to listen to Deutsche Welle. What is Deutsche Welle, I asked him. Deutsche Welle is the one that tells us the truth, he said simply.” That evening Lazopoulos became aware that the regime of the Colonels had all the power in Greece. And that night he became a loyal listener to DW, one among an estimated three million people who watched the program every night, punctually at 9:40 pm.

In July 1974, the Athens regime collapsed after a failed coup in Nicosia, the goal of which was the unification of Greece and Cyprus. Democracy returned to Greece. When some members of DW’s

editorial staff flew back to Athens after seven long years in exile, cab drivers recognized them as DW journalists and refused payment out of gratitude. One former employee of DW’s Greek editorial team later became President of Greece. Karolos Papoulias once said: “This broadcast represents a historic symbol for the Greek people in the fight for democracy and human rights. Even today, the name alone touches even those Greeks who were not born at that time.”

It’s a story that still runs its circles. Even at the slightest sign of a restriction of civil liberties or a cover-up of the truth, people invoke the old authority. “The time of Deutsche Welle is coming back” a respected Greek internet portal a few years ago titled an article criticizing the whitewashing reports of the leftist Tsipras government on the country’s situation. And given the spying on media representatives under today’s conservative Mitsotakis government, a well-known Greek investigative journalist tweeted recently, “As the elders remember, there was a difficult era for our country when citizens listened to Deutsche Welle to get the truth about Greece. Unfortunately, the same thing is still happening today.”

Students with flags and banners bearing anti-government slogans occupied the Polytechnic Institute in Athens, on November 15, 1973. Army tanks prepare to drive through the gates of the student-occupied Polytechnic Institute in Athens, on November 17, 1973.
© picture alliance / A SSOCIATED PRESS

In January 2015, Greek President Karolos Papoulias awards DW director general Peter Limbourg with the Order of the Phoenix.

This broadcast represents a historic symbol for the Greek people in the fight for democracy and human rights.
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS 53 Weltzeit 2023
© DW

Tracing service as a lifeline

DW Bosnian: Text Jasmina Rose, DW Bosnian Service
© Patrick Robert / Sygma / CORBIS / Sygma via Getty Images

Deutsche Welle was the only window to the world at that time.

55 Weltzeit 2023
A Bosnian refugee waves good-bye to a relative as they flee the riots in Mostar.

Dule Mehić is from Srebrenica. When the war began in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1992, he lived with his wife and his son in Zvornik, just 50 kilometers away from his hometown. “When the war broke out, communication between Zvornik and Srebrenica was cut off, so my parents and all the relatives didn’t know anything about me and I didn’t know anything about them,” he tells DW 30 years later.

At the time, Germany’s international broadcaster had launched a “program for refugees” from Bosnia and Herzegovina. A tracing service for people who did not know where their relatives had been displaced to, or whether they were still alive. For hundreds of thousands of people who had to leave the country because of the war and found refuge around the globe, this service was often the only way to contact family members. One of them was Dule Mehić from Srebrenica. When the

Chetniks the Serbian guerilla force occupied Zvornik, Mehić was put under house arrest. After an interrogation, he decided to flee to Serbia. The family found refuge with a friend. A little later, they decided to go to Germany, where more than 350,000 war refugees from Bosnia and Herzegovina found a safe haven.

Family reunification via DW

At that time, there were no internet connections or cell phones. Worried about their family members, many refugees began writing letters to the DW Editorial department for Yugoslavia at the time, asking for help. Flooded with daily mailings, DW decided to launch a special program in Bosnian language via shortwave and satellite distribution. The aim was to establish contact between refugees and their family members. From April 19, 1993, the half-hour program broadcast search messages that had reached DW by

Colleagues from DW’s former Yugoslav editorial team.
© DW / Alfred Koch

mail or telephone. On average, more than 500 search requests were received each month, mainly coming from Europe and, once even from the Fiji Islands.

For example, Zada Hodzic, who was staying with her children in Sulzfeld, Germany, was looking for her husband Šefko Hodzic, who had been imprisoned in Foča prison in May 1992. She had not heard from him since. Tifa Čelik, who was in the Turkish town of Kirklareli, wanted to contact her missing son Sead through DW. And Senija Čajić from Bosanska Dubica, who had made it to Austria, was looking for her brothers Idriz and Eniz from Kozarac. Their last trace got lost in the Trnopolje camp.

From Zvornik via Nuremberg to the USA

While Dule Mehić’s relatives held out in the besieged town of Srebrenica, cut off from the rest of the world, he made it to Germany with his wife and child. In Nuremberg, he found work in a print shop. Not knowing how to contact his mother in Srebrenica, or what was happening to his brother, father and other relatives, he also turned to DW.

With success: friends in Srebrenica listened to DW and his message. They wrote down the address and passed it on to his mother. She was then able to contact him through the Red Cross, operating in the UN protection zone at the time.

After Bosnian Serb General Ratko Mladić’s troops invaded Srebrenica in July 1995 and executed some 8,000 Bosnian men, Mehić again lost track of his family members. Once more he turned to DW, which broadcast a second message. He asked to contact his parents and brothers. This time Mehić did not receive a reply. A few months later, he learned that his father, his younger brother, his 85-year-old grandmother, two brothersin-law and several neighbors and friends had been killed.

The beginning of DW’s Bosnian program

A radio program with news, reports, press reviews and background information. Dule Mehić, traumatized by the death of family members, remained in Germany until 1999. When the German Conference of Interior Ministers decided Bosnian refugees should be sent back home, Mehić went to the United States and realized his American dream. As a mechanical engineer, he worked in a medical device manufacturing company. A short time

later, he founded his own company and registered several medical technology patents. He is particularly proud of an award from Chicago that recognized him for exceptional innovation. He recently retired at the age of 57 a wealthy man and American citizen.

Dule Mehić has not forgotten Germany and DW to this day. “I would never have left the country if I could have stayed. And Deutsche Welle was the only window to the world at that time, the only contact with Bosnia and Herzegovina. In fact, the broadcast was the only hope for refugees to find our loved ones.” DW broadcast the “tracing-program” until the end of the war in 1995. It was the start of DW’s regular Bosnian language program.

Bosnian Muslim refugees arrive at New York’s JFK International Airport on Tuesday, December 7, 1993.

DW was the only hope to find our loved ones!
57 Weltzeit 2023
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Leslie Kirkby

Rescue from Kigali

Days of anguish in Rwanda

Peter Schäfer is 33 years old when he takes up his job as an engineer at DW’s relay station in the Rwandan capital Kigali in 1992. Two years later, he witnesses the massacre in which radical Hutu militias murder an estimated 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu members within 100 days. Today, Schäfer is the last eyewitness still active at DW.

The relay station is located on the outskirts of the capital Kigali, just 10 kilometers from the airport. When the wind is right, you can hear the planes. Peter Schäfer is having dinner at his house when he hears a loud bang. Shortly after, Schäfer hears on the radio that President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down with a missile on approach. His assassination was one of the triggers of the genocide against the Tutsi population.

Rwanda is in a state of emergency. Throughout the country, groups of armed Hutu are descending on

members of the Tutsi minority, going from house to house. People are shot, beaten to death, dismembered; neighbors kill neighbors. The genocide is planned long in advance, the militias search for people on the basis of prepared lists. Peter Schäfer entrenches himself and his team in the relay station, takes cover. “Around our station, there were cracks and big bangs heard non-stop.”

The UN blue helmets stationed in the country do not intervene. France, Belgium and the USA send elite troops to evacuate all foreigners. But the DW team is stuck. The hills surrounding the station serve as military camps for the rebels, and the only access road to the DW compound is guarded by fighters and has been mined.

From Germany, the station’s crisis team is trying to organize a rescue of the 11 DW employees and their relatives from Kigali and is in daily contact with colleagues on the

© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Karsten Thielker

ground by radio or fax, the only means of communication at the time. In vain. Announced rescue operations were canceled at short notice.

The uncertainty of a rescue drags on. Schäfer, the engineer, becomes a paramedic. “I gave first aid, treated seriously injured people, people who were hit by machetes. We hid them in our station and let them stay overnight. In the morning they had to leave again.” The danger from the gangs, who gain access to the premises despite the wall and regularly search the station, is too great. “Our station manager was still trying to save some of our Rwandan local staff. In front of him, a woman who ran away was shot by the militias.”

Initially, the team is still trying to maintain broadcast operations. Upholding the structure of an everyday life that has long since ceased to be one. Until the power supply finally breaks down. Days go by while the team and their families are waiting to be rescued.

At night, Schäfer hears shots incessantly; they still

Paratroopers evacuate foreigners loaded on a truck on the outskirts of Kigali, April 13, 1994.

ring in his ears today. These are nights that do not make him panic, but rather become pragmatic. “I just thought, ’What are you going to do? What’s the solution?’” Schäfer pushes the wooden top of the table in front of his window and sleeps on the mattress next to the bed which also serves as protection from the shots and shells that regularly hit near his house. The time becomes a test of endurance for the team. Some colleagues want to take their fate into their own hands and try to escape on their own. “We just had to get to the airport. But in the end we decided to only leave the station together,” Schäfer stays. And waits.

Then, on the seventh day, the rescue comes completely unexpectedly: Belgian elite soldiers have fought their way to the station with tanks and all-terrain vehicles and evacuate the team. Under the protection of the tanks, the employees finally drive to the airport, past militias, bombedout houses, empty vehicles covered in blood. These are images that burn themselves into Schäfer’s memory and that

he documents with his camera. “I was no longer the same person. My values shifted.”

Three months later, the Hutu forces were defeated by units of the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front. Peter Schäfer returned to Kigali with some colleagues from Germany and witnessed the suffering a second time. DW’s station had been overrun and demolished by the Hutus. Of the once 100 Rwandan local staff, only 30 survived the massacre. “I was quite upset to hear, that colleagues who had worked, lived or celebrated side by side for years had delivered their neighbor to the knife. When we repaired the transmitters after our return, we found little letters that showed who had been locked in the building and who had betrayed their colleagues. I was much more reserved in my dealings with Rwandans after that.”

Peter Schäfer decided to stay and ensured the broadcasting operation of the relay station in Kigali with an interruption by assignments in Sri Lanka and Berlin until 2009.

I gave first aid, treated seriously injured people, people who were hit by machetes.
DW employees and family members at Kigali airport before their evacuation to Germany.
59 Weltzeit 2023
© private

The early days of broadcasting

An interview with Hans-Jürgen Reher

Interview Christoph Jumpelt, DW

Thank you very much for taking us on a little journey through time. What was that like for you when you started in 1958?

I came to broadcasting in 1958 with a job at the radio station WDR as a studio engineer and then moved to Deutsche Welle. We had two studios back then and a continuous German program that was broadcast in four-hour blocks. In the beginning, we mainly took over what the other broadcasters in Germany provided us with. News and current affairs programs were, of course, produced by us.

Shortwave broadcasting was still a bit critical at that time. We had only the 100 kilowatt transmitters in the beginning, and later we added the 500 kilowatt transmitters. These were built in 1972 as part of the coverage of the Olympic Games in Munich. This made Germany’s voice a little easier to hear around the globe.

At that time, there was still a great amount of mail from listeners. Were you aware of this feedback coming from around the world?

There were Deutsche Welle clubs all over the world. I remember from Latin America that they were very active and listened to DW together. These were Germans abroad who still had this feeling for their home country and of course also made their comments. There were also many

H.-J. Reher

listeners who picked up the phone. Their daytime was at night here in Germany, and because the technical department was manned 24 hours a day, unlike the editorial department, they were put through to us with their questions or suggestions. We then passed that on to the editorial team.

How do you remember the development over the almost 40 years you were at DW?

In the early years of the German program, there were the news bulletins with five minutes each. Then came broadcasts in English and French. Then came Spanish and Portuguese, and very quickly Arabic for the Middle East and many other languages. Depending on how the political developments were in the individual broadcasting areas, the range of languages was changed, and the English program was also greatly expanded.

In my later years, I witnessed another quantum leap when the internet and later television were added. Because of the increasing number of editors for the additional language programs, Deutsche Welle had to come up with a plan. In the high-rise building on the Cologne ring road, everyone was housed under one roof for the first time. The editorial offices were now finally all in one place, so that they could also produce reports at shorter notice and become much more up-to-date.

The studio equipment used to be in a separate location. The journalists were brought to their broadcast recordings by shuttle buses. After the space in the high-rise building was finished, I think we ended up with 40 studios. Then we often had interns in the studio who came from Africa or Latin America or even the Far East and did internships with us as part of their training at DW Akademie.

Do you still follow what has become of DW today?

Sure, I still look at the internet and I follow the English television program a bit. I think it’s pretty neat. And I visited the broadcasting center in Berlin once, and I thought it was great how things were run there. It was quite remarkable.

What would be your message to today’s colleagues on the 70th anniversary?

To continue to be interested and, above all, to enjoy the programs, that was what we always said in my time. One thing I still remember very fondly: we were always a very committed community and we had a good sense of togetherness. We have to remember that we have to reach listeners all over the world, and a lot of effort should be put into that.

© DW
© H.-J. Reher © H.-J. Reher
61 Weltzeit 2023
Hans-Jürgen Reher, DW Broadcast Engineer from 1958 to 1996.

DW Polish:


When Lech Wałęsa addressed the Soviets on DW Radio

It is a hot summer day in August 1980 in Gdansk.

Tadeusz Knade, a then 33-year-old journalist for the Catholic magazine “Słowo Powszechne,” is riding the commuter train past the Lenin Shipyard. His gaze glides behind the walls. The gigantic cranes on the site are at a standstill. What catches his eye are the numerous posters and shipyard workers sitting on the walls. “It was like an inspiration. I immediately got off at the next station and went through the gate into the shipyard. I suddenly found myself in the place where history was made. That was my luck,” Knade recalls. Little did he know that this day would later make him one of

the protagonists of a book, a documentary film and also a play. During those days in August, the Gdansk shipyard workers around Lech Wałęsa challenge the communist regime and the entire Soviet empire. Knade experiences firsthand the days that will change Poland, Europe and his life.

He witnesses the historic day when Lech Wałęsa and Polish Deputy Prime Minister Mieczysław Jagielski sign the agreement that will go down in history as the “Gdansk Agreement”. This marks the birth of the “Solidarność” trade union, the first non-governmental mass organization in the Eastern Bloc. It is the first step that will eventually lead to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

DW reports on the strikes in its radio programs. The newsroom relies primarily on reports from the German Press Agency (dpa) Their correspondent in Poland at the time is Renate Marsch.

“I witnessed many significant events in Poland, but the emergence of Solidarność was a turning point that led to the fall of the Iron Curtain and the unification of Europe,” she summed up in a recent interview for DW Polish.

A dream comes true

Marsch becomes famous in Poland for her critical questions at government spokesman Jerzy Urban’s press conferences, which are broadcast live on state television.

Text Bartosz Dudek, Head of DW Polish Service Lech Wałęsa talks on the telephone in his office at Solidarity headquarters, Gdansk, Poland, December 1980.
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© Chuck Fishman / Getty Images

After General Jaruzelski declares a state of war in Poland in 1981, thousands of Solidarność activists are arrested. A list of people who have been arrested is leaked to Marsch. “At Urban’s press conference, I read out the names and asked each why they had been arrested for each one,” the now 87-year-old recalls. Some of those arrested are subsequently released. Marsch is held in high esteem in opposition circles. “I was not neutral, that is a fact. I believed that communism was something bad and that Solidarność was right,” she recounts. When the first postwar non-communist government was formed in Poland in 1989-1990 and Lech Wałęsa was elected president, she feels that her dream has come true. “My friends got into the government and parliament, my mission was accomplished,” she sums up. Today, she still lives in Poland and enjoys her retirement in the Masuria.

you interview

Tadeusz Knade fared differently. After the imposition of martial law and politically motivated dismissals in the Polish media, he leaves Poland and settles in Hamburg. He knows that there is a foreign language radio station in Germany. In the fall of 1986, Knade introduced himself to the then head of the Polish editorial department of radio broadcaster Deutschlandfunk in Cologne, seeking work as a freelancer for the station. His strongest argument in the job interview: his notebook with telephone numbers of the most important Polish opposition figures. “They asked me: can you do a Wałęsa

interview? I immediately said, Yes.” Knade is promptly taken to a studio, and a technician dials Lech Wałęsa’s private phone number from Knade’s notebook. “Wałęsa actually picked up the phone. At first, he scolded me for doing the interview with him by phone. After all, we knew his phone was tapped. But then he calmed down and answered all my questions,” Knade recalls. He becomes the Solidarność expert for the Polish editorial department of Deutschlandfunk and, after the editorial department is integrated into DW structures in 1993, also for the Polish editorial department of Deutsche Welle. Until his retirement in 2007, Knade will conduct about a dozen more interviews with Lech Wałęsa. His interview, which was taken over by DW in August 1987 and broadcast in Russian, still moves him. Thanks to DW, Knade points out, Lech Wałęsa was also able to reach out to Soviet audiences. In 2003, at a joint press conference between Lech Wałęsa and Mikhail Gorbatchev, Knade was able to address a question to the former Soviet president: What influence did Wałęsa have on his Perestroika, he wants to know. “Thanks to Lech Wałęsa, there were great upheavals in Poland. What happened in Poland also supported me in the USSR,” Knade quotes Gorbachev’s answer.

Solidarność in the Digital Age

In the decades following the fall of communism, the influence of Solidarność on the history of Europe is repeatedly addressed in DW programs during anniversaries. Cooperation with Polish media partners and the digital revolution

Lech Wałęsa, adresses stirking workers after negotiations, on August 26, 1980, at the Lenin shipyard in Gdansk, Poland.

President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev and President of Poland Lech Wałęsa in Moscow, on May 22, 1992.

© Wojtek Laski / Getty Images

open up new possibilities. On November 9, 2009, on the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, DW provides technical support for the live broadcast of the Polish public broadcaster TVP from Berlin. And DW Polish provides a co-host for the 5-hour broadcast. A joint live interview with Lech Wałęsa is also in the program schedule.

In 2020, on the 40th anniversary of the strikes in the Gdansk shipyards, DW’s Polish editorial team decides to launch a special project together with its partner “Newsweek-Polska”: a series of articles under the title “Czas Solidarnośći” (The Solidarność period). This time, special emphasis is placed on less noted chapters of Solidarność’s history, such as the role of women in the civil movement, or Solidarność’s influence on the opposition in the former East Germany.

The articles and interviews, including one with former German Federal President Joachim Gauck, published on dw.com and Newsweek. pl as part of the project, will be published in May 2023 as an anthology under the title “Solidarność. The Unfinished History of European Freedom” by the German publishing company Herder.

The term “freedom” has special meaning for Tadeusz Knade: “All the time in my journalistic life I have been committed to the freedom of Europe,” he emphasizes. For this, he had to put up with dismissal and a ban from his profession during martial law in Poland. The decision to leave Poland was not easy for him.

Driving home through the quiet streets of Hamburg on New Year’s Eve 1986 after a telephone interview with Lech Wałęsa, he gets homesick. “I asked myself, why can’t Poland be as free, as peaceful and charming as Germany?” Today he knows that thanks to Solidarność and courageous people like Lech Wałęsa, his dream has come true.

© picture alliance / AP 65 Weltzeit 2023
Thanks to DW, Lech Wałęsa was also able to reach out to Soviet audiences.

A look back in time

When Deutsche Welle went on air for the very first time, on an unusually warm spring day in May 1953, listeners were greeted not only in German, but also in French and English: “Good evening, everybody. This is the voice of Germany.”

The new station’s broadcast language was to be German, at least initially, and its main goal was to convey a picture of post-war democratic Germany to listeners around the world. This picture, presented from a studio in Cologne, included not only politics and history, but also art, science and music.

But from the outset, DW aimed to also be as international as possible and that meant not just an initial greeting in two other languages, but reporting as well on big political events as they unfolded around the globe.

Thus, on that very first day, after listening to Beethoven’s third symphony, the audience traveled with DW to different regions and territories. The station’s news bulletin began with tensions in Tunisia, which was in the midst of its independence process. It focused on political developments in Indochina, and also touched on negotiations to bring about a halt to hostilities in the Korean war.

This was combined, later in the program, with a trip to Berlin. “We want to ask you now, dear listeners, to follow us to Berlin,” said the presenter, before introducing a richly-detailed account of how daily life was in the politically-divided city in May 1953. The reporter began his piece with the following words: “Imagine a rift running through your town.” And he later addressed listeners directly in places like Cape Town, Kansas or Rio.

It is this mixture between a German focus and an international perspective that has been a fundamental part of DW’s identity ever since. This dual view has developed as languages and formats have been added, as teams around the world have adapted to new political, economic and technological realities.

And it has accompanied reporters, presenters and correspondents who have witnessed, while working for DW, some of the biggest stories of the past 70 years.

Broadcasting in times of crisis

It was perhaps a stroke of journalistic luck as well as a huge challenge that some of the main events that marked the second part of the 20th century were actually unfolding geographically close to DW’s headquarters. The channel had a privileged position for reporting on the erection and subsequent fall of the Berlin

DW journalists have reported on the biggest events of the last 70 years, often in challenging circumstances
Text Thomas Sparrow, DW Political and Security Correspondent
© DW 1 66 YEARS DW
Good evening, everybody. This is the voice of Germany.
© DW © DW
© W alter Dick
2 5 6 © DW 3 4 67 Weltzeit 2023
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7 © DW 68 YEARS DW

1 Konrad Adenauer and DW Editor Hans Wendt,1963.

2 DW Studio at NWDR, 1953.

3 Interview with Indonesian President Suharto.

4 DW Kiswahili language department in 1963.

5 DW interview with Mikhail Gorbachev, 1993.

6 Laying of the foundation stone for the Cologne headquarters by Federal President Gustav Heinemann, 1974.

7 DW-TV and DW-Radio via satellite for Bundeswehr soldiers in Somalia, 1993.

Wall, on political developments in eastern Europe and relations between the Soviet Union and the West.

Only three years after DW first began to broadcast, for instance, an uprising in Hungary was crushed by the Soviet Union. The station presented reports and interviews to highlight the wider impact of the revolution, and in some cases even interrupted its normal schedule. “Instead of our Saturday weekly newsreel, we will now bring you eyewitness accounts of the events in Hungary,” said the channel’s presenter in October 1956.

The impact of the Cold War in Europe and beyond would quickly become a key focus for DW in the coming decades and not only in German. Starting in 1954, short news bulletins were presented also in English, French, Spanish and Portuguese. Other languages would follow to help with DW’s international mission: from Farsi to Turkish, from Arabic to Russian, Polish, Hindi and Indonesian.

When the Soviet Union led Warsaw Pact troops and invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, DW responded by strengthening its programs for eastern Europe. It presented its listeners not only with reports from Prague and reactions from Bonn, then the West German capital, but also with analyses of what the invasion meant for the broader communist bloc. Moreover, it provided technical assistance to improve radio reception in Czechoslovakia.

This was the beginning of what came to be known as “DW crisis radio”, which went well beyond Europe’s borders: DW increased its on-air time in Dari and Pashto after the invasion of Afghanistan by Soviet troops in 1979. And 10 years later, responding to the Tian’anmen massacre in Beijing, the channel boosted its Chinese shortwave programming.

An international view

This helps explain DW’s international focus. The channel indeed concentrated on describing to its listeners the impact of the Cold War in Germany and Europe, but it also worked to report on events that occurred beyond its immediate neighborhood and expand its international reach.

In Africa, for instance, this meant progressively introducing new language services and also distributing film copies for television broadcast. In fact, Sudan was the first place to receive them, in

1963, a development which marked the beginning of the TV era at DW. And it included building a relay station in Kigali, Rwanda, which will remain etched in the channel’s history for the events during the country’s genocide in 1994.

As violence raged, employees at the relay station found themselves trapped. Eleven German team members and their families were flown out by a unit of the Belgian special forces, backed up by tanks, but local Rwandan staff were left behind. One German employee described the situation during a radio interview with the channel: “The civil war was so close that it took place right outside our compound wall.” It was a shocking development which highlighted some of the risks faced by DW employees as they tried to guarantee news broadcasts: they had, for a short period, become part of the news themselves.

Media freedom under threat

Since those days in Rwanda, DW has changed how it broadcasts to the world. Radio still continues to play an important role in parts of Africa, but the relay station in Kigali DW’s last closed in 2015 after transmitting for 50 years.

Shortly after German reunification, DW launched a daily TV program, and it has since strengthened its TV presence in several languages. Moreover, in September 1994 it became the first German public-service broadcaster to launch a news website. The editors’ first online task was to cover Germany’s national elections, an early experience of what would become a daily task: to responsibly inform audiences digitally in a fast-moving and highly-interconnected world.

What has not become any easier, is the fact that DW reporters and technicians continue to face challenges while working in certain regions of the world. Media freedom has often been under threat and DW has been banned or restricted in several countries, such as in China, Iran, Russia and Turkey.

Germany’s international broadcaster, however, continues with its goal to report as reliably and clearly as possible on relevant global issues: Russia’s war in Ukraine, differences between the US and China, the impact of climate change, health and food security, migration, and also the nuclear threat and tensions in the Korean Peninsula a region which was present in DW’s first-ever news bulletin.

DW’s last relay station in Kigali, closed in 2015 after transmitting for 50 years.
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Children walk arm in arm through the Zafaye refugee camp, some 15 km from downtown N’djamena, Chad.

Ignored, underrepresented, underestimated

The media’s view of Africa

In a spectacularly beautiful section of the Sahara in the border region between Libya and Chad, I was once again promptly made aware of my ignorance: After hundreds of grueling desert kilometers, I thought nothing would amaze me again so soon on our expedition. We had discovered hippo bones and Stone Age settlements, tasted desert truffles and met rebels with machine guns. And French soldiers with velcro strips on their uniforms, on which they could pin the flags of France or Chad, depending on the situation.

But when we suddenly came across a gigantic tank graveyard, we were taken aback: a steel scrapyard stretching for several kilometers, in the middle of this deserted wasteland. Several dozens of tanks, as if just

parked. Some were shot up, but well preserved by the sand. Artifacts of an immense desert battle sometime during the Cold War that I had never heard of. In the German media, there was at best a headline about a “LibyanChadian border conflict.”

For nearly 20 years, world powers and regional interest groups fought bitter battles in the quiet splendor of the Aouzou Strip. Proxy battles and battles of conquest, East-West protection powers, pariah states and inscrutable militias even the former East German state, the GDR, got involved in the Sahara.

The conflicts of the time continue to have an impact today: As recently as 2021, not far from the battlefield, Chad’s president Idriss Déby was attacked and killed by rebels. They had advanced from Libya

and were carrying Russian weapons.

Western media reported very little about it. Chad is almost always at the top of the list of most ignored countries in the world. DW journalist Eric Topona registers the media’s lack of interest with incomprehension. Chad is the fifth largest country in Africa, surrounded by unstable countries and threatened by jihadist groups. It hosts hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring countries and is security-relevant for Europe. “Surely the world must have an interest in supporting Chad on the road to democracy,” doubts Topona, who was imprisoned there for several months without charge on false accusations. Today, in safe exile, he fights against the silence. “As a journalist in an international media company

Text Claus Stäcker, Director, Programs for Africa
© picture alliance / AP Photo / Jerome Delay 71 Weltzeit 2023

like DW, I now have more leeway to inform people about the political, social and economic situation in Chad. We can spread the truth without fear of being persecuted by the regime for doing so. That’s where I see my role to educate the public about what’s really happening in Chad.”

It is not just from Chad that little is heard in the West. When the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) lists ignored refugee crises worldwide each year, African countries are always in the lead. In addition to Chad, those affected in 2022 included Burkina Faso, South Sudan, Cameroon, Mali, Nigeria, Sudan, Burundi and Ethiopia, which the world media were particularly indifferent to. Most disregarded is the Democratic Republic of Congo the second largest African country. “DR Congo has become a textbook example of neglect,” states Jan Egeland, secretary general of NRC. “It is one of the worst humanitarian crises of this century, yet those inside and outside Africa who have the power to bring about change turn a blind eye to the waves of brutal and targeted attacks on civilians that are destroying communities.”

The under-reporting is absurd the aid organization Care compares the media coverage of the legal dispute between actors Johnny Depp and Amber Heard, (ca. 217,000 published online articles) with the worst drought in 40 years in Angola (only 1,800 published reports). Four million people there are suffering from hunger and more than 100,000 children under the age of five are malnourished.

Angolan constitutional and human rights scholar Professor Fernando Macedo of Luanda University has long observed this media aversion: “Angola and Africa as a whole receive little attention, especially in the Western press. This slows down a speedy and positive integration of Africa into the progress of humanity.

Africa and Angola represent important markets with large numbers of consumers and natural resources that should be reported on in a fair and balanced manner. The issues should be the same as those covered for Western societies reminding rulers of their accountability, accompanying peaceful transformation. These issues from Africa deserve as much attention in the world press.”

It has been almost a quarter of a century since I stood in front of the tank battlefield in the Sahara. Not much seems to have changed in the public consciousness. Little is known to this day about the history, borders, country structures,

peoples, customs, political structures of African countries. Complex crises whether self-inflicted or not are ignored just as much as positive, dynamic developments.

How often did I have to explain as a correspondent before the 2010 World Cup that South Africa has a diversified economy and modern hotel facilities, and that the football stadiums were planned by modern construction companies and would be completed on time. How much things have gone downhill in South Africa since then belongs in the media just as much as the joie de vivre and innovative power of the country, of the entire continent.

The media of the Global North also have a duty of care and completeness.
© Eric Lafforgue / Art In All Of Us / Corbis via Getty Images
The Muhacaona tribe collecting water in Angola.

Hunger, droughts, floods or cyclones trigger compassion and sympathy, and there is nothing wrong with that. But our responsibility as media makers goes beyond portraying African crises. It does not end with triggering stereotypical aid reflexes, highlighting grievances and bad governance. The media of the Global North also have a duty of care and completeness. They distort reality when they describe only risks but not opportunities. Conveying the positive dynamics of the continent does not mean omitting criticism. Painting a multicolored picture is by no means a whitewash.

IPQ starts where the news ends. But we’re on the same wavelength. Happy Birthday, Deutsche Welle! New Economic World Order Europe’s Watershed Moment A digital onmagazine affairsforeign You can find IPQ here: www.ip-quarterly.com
© DW Kenya’s
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When it’s our issues, it’s our issues. When it’s other people’s issues, it’s global issues.
President William Ruto in an interview with DW.

Journalism in Cameroon: Walking a very thin line

When I was arrested in 2018 for doing my job, I came to understand just how dangerous it was to be a journalist in Cameroon. I did not however, realize at the time, the lengths the state of Cameroon will go to in silencing journalists. Cameroonian journalists have endured verbal and physical harassment, incarceration, assault for a long time, and recently, murder seems to be the punishment of choice.

Many Cameroonians and human rights advocates believe that justice for Zogo and Ola Bebe could be the watershed moment that causes the authorities to pause. For someone familiar with the country’s long and brutal history of the suppression of the media, it represents a delicate moment that could empower the perpetrators, unless of course, justice means creating a system that holistically protects journalists.

Over the last few years, the threats against journalists

both online and offline have skyrocketed. Record numbers of journalists are being imprisoned, while online abuse and harassment has encouraged growing self-censorship and even self-exile of many.

Growing impunity, dire consequences for journalists

It was no surprise that the murder of journalist Martinez Zogo in January of this year was linked to the highest echelons of power. The next shock came when only a few weeks after Zogo’s murder Jean Jacques Ola Bebe was found shot dead in February.

Even with increased worldwide efforts to denounce the excesses of the Cameroonian government, there is just a thin line between journalism and certain death in the country. The necessity of journalists preserving the free flow of information to the population and the significant

Text Mimi Mefo Takambou, DW Africa Service
© Alexis Huguet / AFP via Getty Images

Soldiers patrol the streets of Buea, Cameroon.

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hazards attached to their work have both been brought to light in recent years, especially given that those in power are clearly getting bolder in their attacks.

The lack of any consequences after the blatant murder of journalist Samuel Wazizi who was arrested in 2019 and died in custody, simply confirmed to the authorities that external condemnation amounts to much bark and no bite. No independent inquiry was conducted as promised. The boldness with which Zogo’s mutilated corpse was displayed indicated that the perpetrators aimed to send a message to other journalists.

When journalists such as Paul Chouta and Emmanuel Mbombog Mbog Matip, were arrested and jailed on trumped-up defamation charges, and ultimately freed after 24 and 16 months, respectively, the government of Cameroon tested the grounds to see what the rest of the world will do.

Fuelling the anglophone conflict

Journalists from the Englishspeaking parts of Cameroon have arguably suffered the brunt of this oppressive system over the last few years. They are frequently charged with involvement in the separatist movement that has been going on for a while and some have been in jail for years on fake charges. With the introduction of legislations that give the government the power to target journalists, the risk faced by the profession has never been greater. The underreporting of this conflict in Cameroon today is a direct consequence of intimidation of journalists. The absence of critical reporting on the crisis generated a paucity of publicly available objective information that has been exploited by extremist factions on both sides to perpetuate the conflict.

I am both optimistic but largely skeptical of the efforts that have been made to get justice for Zogo and others. My skepticism is borne on the fact that while justice for Zogo and Ola Bebe will send a clear message that those responsible for the deaths of journalists will face consequences, there is a huge risk that these deaths will simply be treated as isolated incidents.

It is crucial that the international community should seek new ways to force the government in Cameroon to actively protect reporters whose work aims to reveal wrongdoings. Journalism must cease being a dangerous profession.

Hurdles for free speech in Cameroon

In March 2023, DW’s Africa department was also heavily affected by the restrictions for media in Cameroon. The team traveled to Yaoundé to produce some episodes of the street debates which are part of the youth format “The 77 Percent”. The visa process for the DW team took more than 10 weeks, working press accreditation was only issued days after the team arrived in the country. Therefore, DW was at first not able to record the debates in public spaces as scheduled, which is a key feature of this very popular discussion format. To make things worse, authorities in Cameroon added another hurdle and refused to issue a visa for DW’s head presenter Edith Kimani. The shows were finally produced with local journalist Marivon Safo who did an outstanding job as replacement presenter.



Journalists […] have arguably suffered the brunt of this oppressive system over the last few years.
© Johan von Mirbach / DW

Press freedom in Nigeria

Haruna Mohammed Salisu was released after spending five hellish days in jail. On March 1, 2023, the 32-year-old journalist and owner of the private news website, Wiki Times, was covering the Nigerian presidential and parliamentary elections in the northern state of Bauchi when he came across a group of women who were protesting against the elections being held.

He approached them to find out what the problem was, and they complained to him that since they voted for the sitting governor four years ago, he had

failed to fulfill his promise of providing jobs, so they were refusing to cast their votes this time. As any journalist would have done, Salisu proceeded to interview these women and unfortunately that interview earned him an arrest by the police.

“I mean this is my job as a journalist to interview, to give a voice to the voiceless, but the governor saw that as a threat," Salisu explained. “Why should I come to his hometown and interview women who were disenchanted with his performance in office?”

© picture alliance /
Text Flourish Chukwurah, DW Lagos Bureau Chief
Ben Curtis
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A journalist livestreams the President’s address.

Salisu’s experience is not an isolated case. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), at least 14 journalists and media workers were detained, harassed or attacked while covering Nigeria’s presidential elections. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) point out that Nigeria is one of West Africa’s most dangerous countries for journalists, who are often being watched, attacked, arbitrarily arrested and even killed.

Journalists and publishers like Salisu are usually at the forefront of such attacks. Simply publishing an article that does not actively stroke the ego of the state or local government has often gotten him in big trouble. Most of the reporters working for Salisu’s news website have an arrest warrant waiting for them in Northern Nigeria. Salisu himself is currently facing six court cases for his reporting.

“Press freedom in Nigeria is generally poor and particularly in northern Nigeria where most of the governors and even

local politicians don’t like the kind of reporting people like us do,” Salisu complains. “And that is evident from the kind of harassment, from the kind of intimidation and threat we face as journalists.”

Last year Salisu did a series of reports on gender-based violence in Bauchi state. He did not mention the name of the governor but exposed how loopholes within the state sharia council have aided perpetrators of gender-based violence, including pedophiles. The governor verbally abused him over the phone and accused him of blackmailing the state. Salisu says his entire family has been traumatized by these repeated attacks. He has also been forced to relocate to another state.

It’s not only authorities that bully journalists. They also receive generally hostile treatment from many communities, especially in rural parts of Nigeria. In September 2022, a mob reportedly attacked a newspaper journalist who was covering the devastating floods in Jigawa state, northern Nigeria. His mobile phones were

© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Sunday
Journalists are constantly attacked by both the authorities that are meant to protect them and the people they are trying to serve.
People travel by canoe in the floating slum of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria.

destroyed and the mob tried to drown him in the water. The people of the town were angry at the government for its inaction during the flood and decided to take out their frustration on the journalist.

“I’ve done investigations where it is the residents of that community who call to hurl curses and abuses at me and threaten to get me arrested,” explained 26-year-old journalist Ikulakolu Adesola. Adesola was also harassed by officers of the Department of State Services on election day. His phone was snatched and some of his video material was deleted.

Practicing journalism in a terrain like Nigeria has become increasingly dangerous. And coupled with the fact that most journalists are sorely underpaid, the profession has become unattractive. Journalists who are supposed to hold authorities to account, have partly been reduced to instruments of spreading lies and propaganda. Obtaining a lucrative job often means working for outlets which

are not too critical of the authorities, while independent journalists like Salisu and Adesola risk their lives for the job.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country. It’s made up of vibrant, energetic and young people, with around 70 percent under the age of 30. It’s also an economic and cultural powerhouse on the continent, providing leadership and setting trends for other African countries. But over the years it has continued to set a bad example when it comes to the press.

Though the constitution provides a legal framework for press freedom, journalists are constantly attacked by both the authorities that are meant to protect them and the people they are trying to serve. For a country with so much potential for greatness and at the same time many failing systems and bad political leadership, if the media is not protected at all costs true progress and development will never be actualized.

Most politicians don’t like the kind of reporting people like us do. And that is evident from the kind of intimidation and threat we face as journalists.
© Pius Utomi Ekpei / AFP via Getty Images
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Police officers stand during a campaign rally in Lagos.

Using media as a weapon

Few documents demonstrate Russia’s strategy to influence the African media landscape as clearly as the 2018 partnership agreement between Russia and Uganda, signed by Russian Minister of Telecommunications Alexey Volin and Ugandan Foreign Minister Henry Oryem, which was obtained by DW.

Prominently placed at the top of the agreement, which explicitly aims to expand “friendly relations”, is future cooperation in the field of media and telecommunications ahead of future planned cooperation in the field of nuclear energy, which Russia also wants to expand in Uganda.

Specifically, it envisages, for example, that Ugandan journalists will be regularly invited to seminars and training sessions at the headquarters of the Russian state broadcaster Russia Today (RT) in Moscow. In return, Uganda’s television frequencies are to

be released to broadcast RT’s English-language programming in Uganda, “including RT signals for hotels and pay TV,” it says. In addition, the Russian state-run news agency Rossiya Segodnya, which includes state-run radio Sputnik, is to work closely with Uganda’s state media. Specifically, they are to “share content in English,” according to the document, “to intensify mutual understanding between the people of the two countries.”

Uganda is one of Russia’s closest partners on the African continent. Almost the entire Ugandan military arsenal is Russian-made, including its air force. Uganda has so far abstained on all resolutions against Russia in the UN General Assembly. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov gratefully shook hands with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni during his tour of Africa last year. At a preparatory meeting for the next

Russia continues to expand its influence in Africa. Especially the African media and technology landscape is now coming into focus.
© Contributor / Getty Images
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An officer from Uganda poses in front of an anti-tank gun in Kubinka, Russia.

Russia-Africa summit last September, Russian President Vladimir Putin called Uganda a “reliable partner in Africa”.

Expanding Russia’s media influence also includes setting up necessary hardware. The above-mentioned document refers to cooperation in terms of satellite and transmission technology for telecommunications companies. After all, when the European Union (EU) shut down Russian state media Sputnik and RT within Europe in March 2022, RT channels also went offline in Africa. The reason: RT was using European companies such as Luxembourg-based Intelsat, which broadcast RT programming to Africa via their satellites. However, it took less than two months for RT to go back online on the continent; this time with help from China. The Chinese pay-TV company StarTimes, which dominates the market in Africa, cleared frequencies for the Russian broadcaster.

‘Russia’s media charm offensive’

Since then, the Moscow-based propaganda broadcaster RT has been steadily expanding its presence in Africa. Initially, RT probably had its sights set on opening an African news bureau in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, where many Western correspondents are present. In July 2022, an RT spokesperson ultimately announced: “We are indeed currently focused on developing our English-language Africa hub in South Africa.”

RT’s chief Africa correspondent since then is Paula Slier, a white, experienced journalist from South Africa. In 2005, she was posted to the Middle East as a correspondent for RT, and since last year she has been working for the Russian state broadcaster in Johannesburg to expand its network of correspondents on the continent. Steadily, RT is running ads on the continent to hire more local staff.

“The media charm offensive in Africa is linked to Russia’s broader efforts to rebuild its presence on the continent,” said Guido Lanfranchi, co-author of a recent study on Russia’s influence on the African continent that he prepared for the Dutch Institute for International Relations. The use of media and propaganda is a key tool in this so-called “softpower” strategy by Moscow, he concludes.

‘Russian radio in Central Africa’

The extent to which Russia goes to dominate the African media world is already evident in the Central African Republic. The country, wracked by numerous civil wars, is one of Moscow’s closest partners on the continent. Since 2017, Russia has not only dispatched

They wanted to make a film about the Wagner mercenaries. It cost them their lives.
Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L) and Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni.

military trainers and mining companies there, but also stationed more than 1,000 mercenaries from the private security firm Wagner, which according to UN investigations is responsible for serious human rights crimes.

But this is hardly reported to the public anymore because Central Africa’s journalists are either under Moscow’s influence or are muzzled. A prominent example of this is Radio Lengo Songo, one of the most popular radio stations in the capital Bangui and within a radius of nearly 100 kilometers. Founded in 2018 with the official reason of promoting peace and reconciliation in the local language of Sango and French, the program’s content has increasingly changed since 2021. A scientific evaluation of the program’s content by French media scholars found that nearly 60 percent of

online articles on the website now contain pro-Russian statements. The station is now popularly referred to as “the Russian radio”.

What can happen to journalists when they speak out against Russia’s influence is also illustrated by the example of Central Africa. In February 2022, the journalist Sinclair Maka Gbossokotto was found dead in Bangui. The cause of death remains unexplained to this day. But colleagues suspect he was targeted by Russians. One of the leading investigative reporters specializing in fact-checking and data journalism, he became chairman of the Journalists’ Network Against Disinformation (CJCLD), which sought to track down the sources of Russian-sponsored fake news in Central and West Africa. Colleagues speculate this may have been his undoing. Two

days before his unexpected death, he had reported about receiving “serious threats”. The night before his death, he had a meeting with an anonymous source over dinner. The next morning, he complained of abdominal pain and died shortly thereafter in the hospital.

Other journalists in Bangui consider it likely that Gbossokotto may have been poisoned because of his work critical of Russia. They too are afraid, not least after it became evident that no journalist is safe when researching Russian involvement in Africa. In 2018, three well-known Russian investigative reporters from Moscow died in an ambush near the Central African city of Sibut. They wanted to make a film about the Wagner mercenaries, who had just been stationed there. It cost them their lives.

Almost the entire Ugandan military arsenal is Russianmade.
picture alliance / dpa
83 Weltzeit 2023
/ Russian Foreign Ministry

Getting climate on the news agenda

When I met indigenous campaigner Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim at the global climate conference in Marrakesh in 2016, she told me about the drought that had dried out her entire pastoralist community in Chad, leaving people without food, water and forcing many to migrate. “We have to act. We have to act now!” Ibrahim is pushing for stronger action to limit climate change because her community feels it every day. For them, it is immediate.

One of the biggest challenges facing climate journalists reporting on the impacts of global temperature rise is that it is ongoing and incremental and does not

have the same extreme effects on life all around the globe.

By its very nature, news is ever moving. Newsworthy, current and relevant stories often take precedence over ongoing issues like global warming. Yet, as awareness of climate change and its impacts continues to grow, things are slowly changing.

In 2015, the Paris Climate Agreement brought together 196 countries pledging to reduce global carbon emissions and limit global warming to well below 2 degrees centigrade above pre-industrial levels, preferably to no more than

Longer droughts, lasting wildfires and ever stronger storms these are just some of the climate change impacts radically changing life for communities all over the globe. And they are likely to get worse. Journalists need to bring these stories to life and make them relevant to their readers and users.
United Nations Environment Programme Louise Mabulo is a young farmer in the Philippines, one of the few women in this male-dominated profession. By promoting sustainable agriculture that’s resistant to climate change, she’s hoping to help her country and make farming more appealing.
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Watch Made in Germany with Louise Mabulo

1.5 degrees. Since then, there has been a huge increase in climate reporting. And about the failure in getting anywhere near this common goal.

More and more newsrooms are recognizing that reporting on climate change can no longer be confined to environment and science desks. It is permeating different beats, says Max Boykoff, professor in environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder and a lead researcher at the observatory. Climate stories are not just environmental stories, “but they intersect with the way in which capitalist enterprises do their business, the way in which people survive and thrive in this world and so they find themselves in all kinds of stories from business pages to culture, style and sports,” he says.

For climate journalists, like me, it’s a positive development to see climate gaining more importance across departments, but it presents new challenges. Outlets are having to consider new models of reporting that bring different teams together whether through combined planning, cross-departmental projects or other measures.

Wolfgang Blau, co-founder of the Oxford Climate Journalism Network, in an interview with the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, argues that a “basic climate literacy” needs to be established across all editorial departments. “So that a news desk editor or other editors across any desk can understand the relevance of a specific

climate story or of a climate aspect within their own subject matter area.”

Widespread climate literacy is also important in tackling disinformation. It has never been more difficult for journalists to weed out false information and conspiracy theories surrounding climate change, renewable energy and beyond. And yet it is “the media’s responsibility to not spread disinformation further”, despite the challenges of reduced resources and the call for ever more content, says Anna Hiatt, executive editor at Covering Climate Now, an organization that partners with media outlets including DW, with the aim of making climate change a bigger part of coverage. “We need to always be checking facts. We need to run down the sources of dubious claims and not parrot anything we don’t have evidence for.”

I reported on four climate conferences. There have been another two since. Journalists are bombarded with an overwhelming volume of information with lobby groups and companies flagging sustainability strategies. The climate conference to some degree creates a platform for greenwashing.

It is our responsibility to look beyond the information presented to us and find out exactly what concrete measures are being taken by businesses to keep their promises and governments to uphold their climate pledges and to hold them accountable when they do not. And that has to go beyond the two weeks of the annual conference.

Watch “ Dhal Char How a disappearing island is making locals climate refugees”
Newsrooms are recognizing that reporting on climate change can no longer be confined to environment and science desks.
It is not our responsibility to solve climate change — but it is our responsibility to ask the right questions, provide context and promote debate.
DW reporter Zobaer Ahmed was awarded the South Asian Digital Media Award of the World Association of News Publishers for his video report on the consequences of climate change for the island of Dhal Char in the Bay of Bengal.

While maintaining our quality of reporting, we also need to make sure we can hold the interest of our audience. It’s important to know the topic well so we can avoid distracting jargon and provide context to our stories. We also need to make sure we find the human element by giving a voice to what people are feeling and what they’re experiencing.

The truth is that more and more people are concerned about the climate. Our main challenge is to find stories that connect our lives with the impacts of a warming planet and engage them in a constructive way.

Solution-based constructive reporting is one approach and it does not mean that we avoid being critical. It means finding potential solutions and providing background information and context around them, as well as giving our audience a sense of agency.

DW’s own Editor-in-Chief Manuela Kasper-Claridge has called climate change “the defining issue of our time”. As journalists, it is not our responsibility to solve climate change but it is our responsibility to ask the right questions, provide context and promote debate. We need to link editorial teams more effectively and improve climate knowledge among all reporters. Only then can we overcome the challenges in getting climate reporting into the spotlight and out to our audiences in engaging, thought provoking and creative ways.

DW’s Eco partnerships

A green deal for the environment

Admittedly, the topics might repeat themselves after more than 350 issues of the environmental magazine Eco Africa. “No problem,” says Kingsley Uranta, program director of DW’s partner station Channels TV from Nigeria, “after all, the challenges for environmental protection have remained the same.” He and his counterpart from Uganda (NTV) recently visited DW in Berlin to talk about the broadcasters’ environmental partnership.

Eco Africa has been an integral part of DW’s program since 2016. On the occasion of the Paris climate summit COP 21, DW and the Nigerian broadcaster Channels TV launched the weekly environmental magazine in a co-production. Eco Africa is now also available in French and Portuguese also in co-production with African partners.

Africa, Asia (Eco India), Latin America (Eco Latinoamérica) DW produces the right program within the Eco family with partners on all three continents. The latest addition is Eco Brasil, a digital magazine version with seven episodes for the DW platforms and those of the South American distribution partners.

DW’s Eco formats are becoming a media evergreen. To keep it that way, the Ecos are now focusing on several digital formats that show the young, “digital” generation good examples and ideas of how people on all continents, on a small as well as a large scale, are doing something for the climate.

Watch Eco Africa Watch Eco India
© DW © DW Weltzeit 2023 87
Watch Eco Latinoamérica

February 2023 in the Italian port city of Vittoria. EU Neighborhood Policy Commissioner Olivér Várheyli and Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani are handing over the first of five ships to Libya’s coast guard. The modern rescue ships, with space for 200 people, are part of an EU “action plan” to reduce the number of migrants leaving Libya for Italy. The North African country’s coast guard is to pick up “irregular” migrants in their ramshackle overloaded boats in its search-and-rescue section of the Mediterranean and ferry them back to the Libyan mainland.

“This boat is meant to and will protect our borders,” said EU Commissioner Várheyli, explaining the purpose of the cooperation with Libya’s coast guard. The EU’s goal is to keep as many migrants in Libya as possible. The number of people who dare to make the dangerous

crossing north across the Mediterranean Sea with the help of smugglers has increased dramatically in the past year, according to the United Nations. Nearly 100,000 people have reached the EU country of Italy by boat. Thousands are said to have drowned in the process of fleeing. For years, the United Nations has called the route from North Africa to Italy the “deadliest migration route” in the world.

The European Union has outsourced the task of rescuing as many migrants as possible from distress at sea to private rescue organizations in the Mediterranean and to Libya’s coast guard. Back in 2017, the UN refugee commissioner called on the EU to organize more rescue missions. Instead, Brussels shut down its sea rescue mission “Sophia” in March 2020. Since then, only a few EU-flagged ships have been sailing through the eastern Mediterranean under the name “Mission Irini”, mainly to enforce the UN arms embargo against Libya. For years, the EU’s declared goal has been to reduce the number of

Europe: No more refugees, please

The EU is focusing on preventing migrants from leaving Libya for Europe …

“irregular departures” from Libya to the north, meaning to keep the migrants in Libya. This can be read in various summit decisions and action plans.

“This is overshadowed by the ongoing conflict in the country which is basically determining the effectiveness of whatever we are doing with Libya. It is not easy,” EU Commission spokesman Peter Stano explains. The rivalry between two competing governments in the aftermath of Libya’s civil war makes cooperation almost impossible. The EU supports the government in Tripoli in western Libya. But many refugees and migrants try to leave from eastern Libya. The east is controlled by General Haftar, who in turn is supported by Russia, among others. “Overall the cooperation is seen as effective and fulfilling the objectives in the very difficult context which is currently on the ground in Libya,” Stano adds.

Organizations that help migrants, such as the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) in Brussels, have been criticizing the activities of the coast

guard in Libya for years. The coast guard is being accused of hunting down boat people, dragging them into illegal prisons and even of cooperating with smuggling gangs. The United Nations has made similar accusations. The human rights situation in civil war-torn Libya is catastrophic, the UN agency for international migration (IOM) wrote in its latest report on Libya in the fall of 2020.

“It is an environment of lawlessness in Libya,” says Villads Zahle, spokesman for the European Council on Refugees (ECRE). The European Union is funding the government in the west of the country with programs worth many millions. According to the EU Commission, a total of 700 million euros has flowed into the country since 2015. “Therefore, it is fair to say that there is some complicity there,” Zahle believes. He says the EU is focusing on preventing migrants from leaving Libya for Europe instead of stabilizing the country and fighting causes of flight in the countries of origin. Libya is currently home to some 700,000 migrants, most of whom come from Niger, Egypt, Sudan, Chad and Nigeria.

The European Union is funding humanitarian aid for migrants in reception camps through the United Nations. “We are financing the basic needs of the migrants who are on the territory of Libya,” says EU spokesman Stano. Local communities and municipalities hosting migrants also receive support, he states. At the same time, the EU maintains a

Private rescue workers on board the NGO ship SOS Mediterranee.
… instead of stabilizing the country and fighting causes of flight in the countries of origin.
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© Michael Bunel for InfoMigrants

“border management mission” (EUBAM) in Tripoli that trains border guards from Libya to be deployed at land borders with neighboring countries. Coast guard training has been discontinued because the Libyans were not interested in it in recent years, according to Stano.

The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) has suggested that the EU return to its previous policy and organize sea rescues in the Mediterranean itself to reduce the high death toll. “Is this a realistic scenario?” wonders Villads Zahle of ECRE. Hardly, he says, because the EU’s goal is “to prevent as many people as possible from being able to exercise their right to an asylum procedure at some point.” Currently, the European Union is also trying to increase repatriations from Libya to countries of origin, together with the United Nations and its agencies. In addition, negotiations have been ongoing for years with countries of origin in Africa to take back migrants and rejected asylum seekers. But not a single significant agreement has been reached since 2014.

“It is not the EU that is inviting people to leave Libya or African shores and undertake the very dangerous and life threating journey across the Mediterranean”, says EU Commission spokesman Peter Stano in defense against recurring accusations by non-governmental organizations that the EU is not living up to its responsibility. “We know that most of the people are being misused by the smugglers and human traffickers. That is why many of our efforts are focused on disbanding the smugglers’ networks and fighting the human trafficking.” In the EU’s logic, this works best by minimizing the chance of reaching Europe. After all, without a chance of success, no one will pay a smuggler either, who currently collects around 1,000 euros per head for a place in the boat.

Can the EU stop migration in Libya?

For the last 10 years, Europe has faced the challenges of a flow of hundreds of thousands of migrants attempting to reach Europe via the Mediterranean. The unstable situation in Libya in particular has made these challenges more difficult, which, in the eyes of some commentators, contributed to a number of mistakes made by the EU regarding its policy toward Libya.

Tarek Lamloum, a Libyan activist and human rights defender focusing on the issues of migrants and asylum seekers, says that it is very obvious that Italy’s policies on Libya, for example, have not changed over the past 10 years, and they serve the interests only of Rome and those on the

© Michael Bunel for InfoMigrants
Private rescue workers on board the NGO ship SOS Mediterranee, January 2023
Text Ali Moutaz, Journalist, Tripoli

ground in Libya who oversee events the consecutive governments and the various uncontrolled militias and other armed factions.

Lamloum regards Italy’s behavior in regard to Libya with concern. In his conclusion, Italy is attempting to turn the African country into its own southern coast and is determined to pursue its Libyan policies unilaterally, even if they might go against its commitments as a member state of the EU.

“Post-revolution Libyan governments seem to have understood the messages coming from Rome which say that it is willing to support any armed faction able to prevent migrants from reaching Italy,” says Lamloum. This causes massive repercussions for Libyan internal issues. He thinks that EU policies will increasingly affect the migrants negatively since they will result in keeping them in detention centers for long periods because the Libyan government will not be able to deport or transfer them to a third country.

Refugees and migrants are suffering extreme circumstances in the detention centers in Libya, while they are almost forgotten by the international community. Violent attacks against refugees are numerous. Militias are treating the mostly sub-Saharan refugees like economic assets. There is torture and blackmail in the detention centers. European focus on democratic change in Libya seems to have shifted to stemming the flow of migrants, regardless of their situation.

After the Russian attack on Ukraine, there is a new focus on Libya as a potential energy partner to deliver oil and gas to Europe. The visit of Italian prime minister Giorgia Meloni to Tripoli earlier this year highlights the new strategic importance Libya may soon have. Like in neighboring Tunisia, dealing with migration will become more and more the sole responsibility of the local Libyan stakeholders.

As long as Libya remains in a political mess the migrants will continue to use the country as a doorway to Europe. The apparent silence about their grave situation in Libya encourages migrants to look for a place on a boat on one of the beaches between Zuwara and al Khoms.

The UN estimates there may be some 600,000 migrants in Libya. The figure could well be much higher. For the vast majority, Libya is a staging post on their journey across the Mediterranean to Europe, a place where they can rest a while and earn enough money to pay for the final leg of that trek.

The Tripoli-based Government of National Unity has suggested that Libya could employ scores of foreign workers for the reconstruction of the country once stability is assured. Companies from European countries, Turkey and Egypt are lining up already. As many of those attempting to cross the Mediterranean via Libya are economic migrants, a stable and safe Libya could likely become the destination, not the staging post.

The apparent silence about their grave situation in Libya encourages migrants to look for a place on a boat on one of the beaches between Zuwara and al Khoms.
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© Michael Bunel for InfoMigrants


DW’s information platform for migrants and refugees

future are told in InfoMigrants’ special series “Escape Diaries”. Produced by DW’s Africa department for the EU-supported project, it is an example of how InfoMigrants takes up and contextualizes current crises for its target groups.

According to the UN refugee organization UNHCR, the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has led to the largest refugee movement since the Second World War. Millions of people suddenly had to leave their homes and seek refuge in neighboring countries and the EU. Among them were nearly 700,000 third-country nationals, such as Collins Okoro, a student from Nigeria who had arrived in Kharkiv just months before the war broke out to study international law at Karazin Kharkiv National University.

His fate and that of other Africans who had to leave Ukraine as a result of the Russian attack and now face an uncertain

Since 2017, InfoMigrants has been providing news and background information on the topic of flight and migration for users from Africa, Asia and the Middle East. The DW Editors assigned to InfoMigrants work in close cooperation with the respective DW language departments as well as with the project partners at France Médias Monde and ANSA. The platform is aimed at people who are thinking about migrating to Europe as well as those who are fleeing war and conflict or have already arrived in the EU. On InfoMigrants’ various online channels, they can find news, practical advice and reports on the experiences of and by refugees and migrants in Arabic, Bengali, Dari, English, French and Pashto.

Over the years, InfoMigrants has steadily gained reach and established itself as a trusted source of information for its target groups. Besides the Ukraine war, other displacement crises have borne particular significance for its users: In the wake of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan for example, the Dari and Pashto

© Emma Wallis/InfoMigrants InfoMigrants journalist Arafatul Islam talks to a group of Bangladeshi migrants who recently came to Sicily from Libya via the Central Mediterranean.
A mother and her child walk in the Mavrovouni camp, in Lesbos.

channels of InfoMigrants became a vital and much sought-after source of information for Afghan citizens.

Regardless of their origin, migrants and asylum seekers are also confronted with further challenges on their way to Europe: the dangers of irregular migration have not diminished despite repeated appeals by human rights groups and efforts at the EU level; on the contrary, they are increasing. These include abuse and exploitation in human trafficking, torture in Libyan camps, illegal pushbacks by border officials at EU external borders. Private sea rescue in the Mediterranean remains a contentious issue for politicians while thousands of people continue to drown in the Mediterranean every year.

Given this complex dynamic, the core mission of InfoMigrants is to provide reliable information and make it accessible so that users can make informed decisions. With small teams of reporters, InfoMigrants is often on the ground to report first-hand, for example in transit countries on the Balkan route, in initial arrival centers in Sicily, or visiting refugee initiatives in European cities that are working for integration and cohesion.


© Arafatul Islam/InfoMigrants © InfoMigrants © private A Bangladeshi migrant works as a farmer at a firm in Sicily.
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Collins Okoro, protagonist in InfoMigrants’ series “Escape Diares”.

US and Europe: Best relations

for the time being

In the rift that emerged during the four years of Trump’s policy of America

First, many wondered if the longstanding trust between Germany and the US could be restored. Two years after Trump left office, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine erased any doubt about the relationship between the two Western allies, both united in their support of Ukraine. And yet both countries are keenly aware of the fragile state of their partnership, should a new president get into the White House.

The Trump quake is still reverberating. There is a palpable change of climate in American politics which might never completely convert back. Particularly in domestic politics, the differences between the two camps remain strong; resentment, lies and

even open hostility characterize many debates. The search for a common denominator is no longer the focus. Too often, the focus is on scoring points at the expense of the political opponent. Against this backdrop, Joe Biden’s domestic political successes cannot be praised enough. He has managed to pass a billion-dollar investment program that takes climate change seriously to an extent that Germany let alone Europe can only dream of.

A degree of uncertainty dominated the first weeks of Biden’s tenure from a European perspective. Raising the question, what this new reality in Washington might mean for transatlantic relations? Germany had little reason to question this reliable friendship. Until, that is, Donald Trump and his loudhailer in Berlin, US

ambassador Richard Grenell, took the helm and berated and even threatened Germany.

The new Biden administration first waited to see who would succeed chancellor Angela Merkel. The election of Olaf Scholz came as a surprise to many in the US as well.

With the beginning of Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine came a sea change, not only in Europe as the new German chancellor marked in his speech in parliament, but in German–US relations.

Rarely has there been such heavy traffic in the transatlantic skies. Top German officials have been turning out in Washington in force. Meanwhile, the Biden administration takes every opportunity to remind Americans of the close, trusting and important relationship between the two

Text Ines Pohl, DW Bureau Chief Washington
US President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House.

countries. Washington understands and appreciates how far not only Olaf Scholz and his government, but all of Germany, has come.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, few could have imagined that Germany would be willing to provide not only financial but, above all, military support to the Ukrainian battlefield. The respect Biden and Scholz now have for each other is genuine, they work on a basis of trust. And their joint signal to Russia is clear: together, we stand closely by Ukraine’s side, no matter for how long that may be necessary. Once again, the idea that the Western alliance is not a foregone conclusion dominates again.

But forces not only from Russia, but increasingly also from China are tugging hard at this alliance. And the Global

South is also discovering its position of strength in the struggle for a new world order, questioning ever more loudly the massive military and financial support for Ukraine. It can only be a question of time until the first countries seek a new proximity to China and Russia.

Governments in the West are aware of all this. And they will need to find constructive solutions to the major differences, like a unified policy toward China.

One of the biggest challenges for governments on both sides of the Atlantic will be to convince their own people that the intensive support for Ukrainian is important and justified, and also in the interest of their countries.

The dam is still holding here in the United States. But as the start of the campaign season nears, support for

the defense of democracy in Europe may grow more faint. And Biden’s challengers will not only criticize his course, but also try to exploit Germany’s perceived hesitation. Both currently presumed Republican candidates for US president, Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, have stated they see no advantage in the US supporting Ukraine and would rather spend the money at home.

Therefore, Germany and Europe would be well advised not to settle back too comfortably into the old reliability. It is a security with an expiration date. Possibly as early as November 2024, when a new president moves into the White House.

Rarely has there been such heavy traffic in the transatlantic skies.
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© Demetrius Freeman / The Washington Post via Getty Images

The tsunami

of hungerglobal

When the earth shook in Syria and Turkey in February, it also jogged the memory of a crisis that had faded into the background over the past two years of international crisis. After 12 years of conflict, 12 million people half the population are starving in Syria. It is almost cynical that, given the cascade of global crises and the accompanying media overload, it took a new catastrophe to turn the spotlight back on the suffering of the people in Syria’s major crisis.

Hunger remains a prominent issue in many African countries and current global events are only making it worse.

In the process, hunger has gone from a tidal wave to a tsunami of global proportions over the past few years. Conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic and the devastating consequences of the war in Ukraine have pushed 345 million people in 79 countries into acute hunger. That’s nearly three times as many as in 2019, and food prices are at a 10-year high despite efforts to stabilize markets,

like the so-called Black Sea Grain Agreement. While the global North is feeling the effects mainly in their wallets, hardship is exploding in poor countries. Many countries have not yet recovered from the effects of the pandemic, are over-indebted, and poverty and hunger are rampant. This also threatens to inflame existing tensions. We are seeing the first effects in Haiti, Sri Lanka, and currently in Kenya and the countries of the Sahel. Meanwhile, smallholder farmers in the global South are suffering from massive increases in fertilizer prices. What consequences this will have for future harvests can only be estimated, but the outlook is bleak. Aid organizations such as the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) are also finding it increasingly difficult to reach the growing number of people suffering from hunger. Increased food and fuel prices are making our purchasing and logistics more

/ Evelyn Fey
97 Weltzeit 2023

expensive, while the funding gap continues to grow.

Add to this the climate crisis as a new constant. In the Horn of Africa, the upcoming rainy season is predicted to be weaker than necessary again it would be the sixth in a row. The Damocles sword of famine has been hanging over the people of the entire region for months. Extreme weather events such as Hurricane Freddy uproot nature and people in Madagascar and Malawi. As recently as June 2022, heat waves in Pakistan were followed by floods that submerged a third of the country and destroyed 4.4 million hectares of fertile farmland, livestock and crops. This is not a temporary trend in the Global South, but it is literally destroying the food and livelihoods of us all. If we fail to curb climate-damaging emissions, then a full 30 percent of the world’s agricultural production capacity could be lost by the end of the century. The report just released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate

Change (IPCC) has once again highlighted the disproportionate impacts of climate change on the people who have contributed least to it.

The fact is: we are so deep in the global climate and food crisis that even major humanitarian crises, such as those taking place in Syria, Afghanistan or Haiti, are becoming forgotten crises.

The way out of the spiral must start with the smallest yet most devastating common denominator: Hunger. Thinking comprehensively, food aid can become a signpost out of the crisis thicket, starting with emergency aid for survival and ending with climate protection, gender equality and peace. Shortly after the earthquake in Syria, WFP trucks were rolling in loaded with food, because we have been in the country for a decade and have functioning aid structures. WFP reaches 5.5 million people across Syria with aid every month. In Somalia, WFP has massively scaled up emergency assistance over

the past year, providing early cash support to vulnerable communities. This better arms people against climate shocks and has averted the threat of large-scale famine for now. In Ukraine, our teams are working close to the frontline, providing nutritional support to three million people every month.

This aid saves lives in acute crises. It is indispensable, but it is also expensive and only takes effect when disaster strikes. But food aid can do more. It can help break the crisis spiral so that those affected are not left with nothing after the next drought or flood.

In Bangladesh and Nepal, for example, support begins even before the next monsoon floods. When flooding threatens, families receive money to

Extremely alarming | 0 Alarming | 9 Serious | 35 Moderate | 36 Low | 49 Not included or not designated Global Hunger Index 2022 SYRIA SOMALIA MADAGASCAR SOUTH SUDAN BURUNDI CHAD CENTRAL AFR. REP. DR CONGO YEMEN Source: Deutsche Welthungerhilfe e.V.
© WFP / Photolibrary

Residents and rescuers search for victims and survivors amidst the rubble of collapsed buildings following an earthquake in Harem, Syria.

bring themselves and what little there is to live on to safety. If homes and livelihoods have been destroyed, climate insurance kicks in. This prevents those affected from slipping into poverty and hunger after the disaster. Anticipatory aid is not only more dignified it is also more efficient and can reduce the cost of humanitarian aid by up to 50 percent.

In the five African countries of the Sahel, WFP literally starts at the bottom with the soil and the smallholder farmers who cultivate it. Through better agriculture, they are wresting land from the desert and making it arable again. The fertile soil binds CO2, trees provide shade and make the soil more productive. This secures food and is good for the climate. The women sell the surplus yields on the market, generating income for their families. This strengthens not only families, but entire communities in the region.

Since 2018, WFP has worked with people to restore 158,000 hectares of land through simple farming methods. We are building simple but sustainable infrastructure, such as irrigation channels and roads. This helps through the next drought and creates prospects for young people beyond migration. In school meal programs, we promote education especially for

Ute Klamert

is the Deputy Executive Director for Partnerships and Advocacy of the UN World Food Program.


girls invest in healthy nutrition with locally produced school meals and boost the local economy. In the period between harvests, vulnerable families receive cash transfers or nutritional assistance to prevent them from slipping into hunger and poverty. The numbers show: despite worrying hunger figures in Niger, 80 percent of villages there participating in these WFP programs no longer needed humanitarian assistance last year.

Only months have passed since the earthquake in Syria and Turkey. The crisis spiral continues to spin rapidly, and with it, oblivion. In Afghanistan, WFP has to cut rations, while the risk of famine in the country is higher than it has been in a quarter of a century. The climate time bomb

is also ticking loudly. We are slipping from one crisis to the next. The longer we wait, the more expensive it will be to find a way out of the growing crisis thicket. The political task remains to stop the toppling dominoes in time to end conflicts that are still the main cause of hunger. But in the meantime, we need to find solutions. 60 years after its founding, WFP’s work has helped save millions of lives and change lives for the better. We are trying to forestall powerlessness and oblivion through aid and solutions. But we will not defeat the food crisis single-handedly. It needs the continued commitment of the international community. Because without that support, the best solution remains just a nice idea.

While the global North is feeling the effects mainly in their wallets, hardship is exploding in poor countries.
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Police forces push back photoreporters and journalists violently, in Exarcheia neighborhood of Athens.

Greece: Turning a blind eye to a real threat

After the horrific train accident with 57 deaths at the beginning of March, Greece is frozen in a state of shock. Shock often turns to anger. This was also the case when the alleged perpetrator of the train collision was brought in for questioning. Suddenly, a verbal argument breaks out between a lawyer and journalists who were gathering reactions outside the courthouse. The police promptly intervened and temporarily arrested four media representatives. The press unions protested.

The incident is one in a series of similar events and attacks on free reporting that cast Greece in a bad light: According to the latest ranking by Reporters Without Borders, the Mediterranean country ranks 108th out of a total of 180 countries in the world in terms of press freedom, making it the EU’s worst performer.

Particularly serious: The murder of journalist Giorgos

Karaivaz in 2021 has yet to be solved. In 2020, DW reporter Thomas Jacobi was physically assaulted at a far-right demonstration. After the change of government in 2019, the ANA-MPA news agency and the public broadcaster ERT were placed directly under the control of conservative Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Shortly thereafter, accusations were made that disagreeable journalists were being wiretapped.

Financial journalist Thanasis Koukakis was the first to discover the “Predator” spy software on his cell phone. Even after the head of government Mitsotakis claimed that no government agency had ever used this software, the Athens-based news portal “Inside Story” subsequently identified a total of 50 socalled phishing sites being used in Greece to intercept communications. “This is not only about journalists, but possibly also about the army, politicians or even ordinary

people,” says Eliza Triantafyllou, a reporter at Inside Story. The affair continues to draw wider circles, especially since it became known that the socialist top politician Nikos Androulakis was also intercepted by Predator.

This is a good opportunity for the opposition. But even the former left-wing prime minister Alexis Tsipras was not exactly smeared with glory when it came to press freedom during his term in office (2015–2019). In February, a special court sentenced his probably closest confidant Nikos Pappas to a two-year suspended prison sentence for dereliction of duty. As press minister, Pappas is alleged to have manipulated a tender process for TV licenses. After the court ruling, ex-health minister Pavlos Polakis, a heavyweight of the Left Party, caused a stir: On his website, he published the names and photos of critical journalists, saying that these people had to be “gotten rid of”.

Text Jannis Papadimitriou, DW Greek Service
In the cradle of democracy, critical reporting is often unwelcome. Politicians, however, do not want to acknowledge the problem.

Head of government Mitsotakis does not want to accept that freedom of the press is in danger. When confronted with this accusation, he has the following answer ready: “Just look at the newspapers on the newsstands, there are several papers that criticize me or even insult me.” The prime minister is right. But it is also true that newspapers in Hellas are a discontinued model. Ta Nea, the newspaper with the highest circulation, sells less than 20,000 copies a day. The most important source of information is television, and the internet and social media are becoming increasingly popular. And last but not least, Greeks are enthusiastic about good

old-fashioned radio, especially when they are stuck in the notorious Athens traffic jam.

“I cannot accept the blanket assertion that there is no freedom of the press in Greece,” says political expert and writer Levteris Koussoulis. But there are several critical questions that need to be clarified. The most important: “Most of the media report in a pro-government way, critical issues are simply left out,” he adds. And that’s regardless of who’s governing at the time. After every change of government, chief editors and presenters in public radio and television are replaced; party credentials are often more important than qualifications.

Quite a number of journalists switch sides, go into politics and then run for office for the very party that was their journalistic beat before. It is not always clear, however, whether a career in politics beckons to journalists who are “loyal to the line” or whether, conversely, the parties want to benefit from the popularity of an experienced journalist and move closer to him or her. Giorgos Plios, a professor of media studies in Athens, sees something of a win-win situation: “When top journalists run for parliament, they themselves profit from their national prominence. And the politicians who put them up also benefit.”

Most of the media report in a progovernment way, critical issues are simply left out.
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© Konstantinos Zilos / NurPhoto via Getty Images

On most days, life in Taiwan feels normal and peaceful. People go about their lives and make plans for important holidays. On the surface, it’s hard to picture the island as a place where the potential threat of war is imminent.

But over the last few years, the democratic island of 24 million people has become an important topic for global geopolitical discussion, as countries around the world start to grow concerned about China’s military expansion and the global impact of a potential war across the Taiwan Strait.

While the global discussion about Taiwan largely focuses on the geopolitical situation around the island, its role in the global semiconductor supply chain as well as China’s ultimate plan to reunite with the island, Taiwanese people often feel that their voices are missing in these conversations. To them it appears, the world views the crisis more from the perspective of China challenging the US, respectively as Washington suppressing Beijing. Many Taiwanese view their home as an island that’s coincidentally caught in the middle of the great power competition between the US and China.

The constant threats and provocations coming from China have been a fixture in everyday life here for decades. In 1996, China tried to intimidate Taiwan from hosting its first-ever democratic presidential election by firing a set of missiles into the Taiwan Strait.

With the threats from China almost becoming a regular background noise in Taiwan, people have either become de-sensitized by the constant claim of military invasion or they think Beijing’s message is only a declaration of sovereignty, rather than a real desire or urge to start a war across the Taiwan Strait. Not everyone in Taiwan has a good understanding of the scale of the military threat. Some, simply don’t care about the threats from China, because they don’t take them seriously.

However, former US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August and the subsequent week-long military exercise conducted by China have triggered a series of conversations about the level of threat from China and pushed the Taiwanese government and civil society groups to kick off a series of defense reforms as well as new efforts to enhance the island’s civil defense capabilities.

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen warned that with Taiwan on the frontlines

A Taiwanese view on the island’s future

of authoritarian expansion, “only by preparing for war can we avoid it, and only by being capable of fighting a war can we stop one.”

At the end of last year, Taiwanese authorities unveiled a comprehensive plan to overhaul the island’s military training, including extending the compulsory military service from four months to one year, increasing the number of live-fire drills throughout the military service and raising salaries in the armed forces.

These efforts and the growing frequency of China’s military provocation

Amid growing global attention on the potential military conflict across the Taiwan Strait, the people of the island think it’s important for the world to include their perspectives in discussions about Taiwan’s future.
Taiwanese people often feel that their voices are missing in these conversations.
Text William Yang, DW East Asia Correspondent

have also begun to change the discussion in Taiwan about the threat from China. More people are signing up for emergency response training courses. One of the organizations alone, the Kuma Academy, wants to train roughly 3 million Taiwanese citizens in various defense skills through multiple sessions of simulating war scenarios.

The percentage of Taiwanese citizens expressing their willingness to defend Taiwan if a war broke out has increased, with some opinion polls suggesting close to 70 percent of the respondents express

the willingness to fight for Taiwan.

Apart from the fact that China’s military threat seems to be getting closer to Taiwan in terms of proximity, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also pushed many people in Taiwan to start taking Western assessments of China’s potential invasion of Taiwan more seriously.

The growing media attention to the situation is regarded by some even as having the potential risk of actually provoking China. The visits by prominent foreign politicians to Taiwan are also viewed in part as counterproductive to the

Taiwanese people’s own determination of their relationship with China. While those visits from foreign officials may signal strong international solidarity with Taiwan, almost no one believes this will restrain China from further intimidating the population of the island.

As the Taiwanese public remains divided about the growing international attention on Taiwan, the unifying factor is, that Taiwanese people do not want their island to be portrayed as “just the next global conflict”, but a democratic society defending its way of life.

The number of Taiwanese citizens expressing their willingness to defend Taiwan if a war broke out has increased in recent years. © picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com
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/ Daniel Ceng Shou-Yi

Afghanistan under the Taliban:

Who is responsible?


Since the militant group took control of Afghanistan in August 2021, the country’s economy has been in a state of turmoil. The international community has refused to recognize the Taliban government; therefore, the group finds it increasingly difficult to stabilize the economy, which is heavily dependent on foreign aid.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Afghanistan is currently facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with a real risk of systemic collapse and a human catastrophe. This humanitarian crisis, according to UN, is reversing much of the

progress the country was able to achieve after NATO forces came into the country in 2001.

The Taliban are not the only ones responsible for the current situation in Afghanistan. Afghan governments at the helm of the country after 2001 must also be held accountable. They failed to use the momentum after the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001 for the benefit of their country. Afghanistan’s economy, its security, civil society, as well as media, relied heavily on foreign support during that time. Afghans should have realized much earlier that this support would be temporary.

The US and its allies including Germany are also responsible for Afghanistan’s current situation. The Washington-led Afghan peace process was mismanaged and the 2021 withdrawal of NATO troops from the country proved to be a historic blunder.

In a report released in February, the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan’s Reconstruction (SIGAR) said that actions taken by the last two US presidents and Afghan’s ex-President Ashraf Ghani’s administration accelerated the country’s collapse.

The West is also responsible for supporting weak, corrupt and ineffective Afghan administrations for two decades.

Afghans defy restrictions

The Afghan people are the real victims of this crisis. The country is ruled by a fundamentalist group that has imposed severe restrictions on women’s rights, including girls’ education. But all is not lost.

Afghan women and civil society continue to demonstrate that they can bring change to the country. They are fighting for their future as well as that of their country.

Afghan women took to streets to commemorate International Women’s Day in Kabul on March 8 to demand their

An underground school is just one way to keep girls learning in Afghanistan. Text Masood Saifullah, Head of DW Dari and Pashto Service © AP Photo/Ebrahim
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rights. It was a message not only to the Taliban but also to the international community.

Afghan civil society continues to challenge the Taliban-imposed restrictions. The Taliban have forced women to cover their faces, but they have not been able to silence their voices. Many Afghan men have joined this struggle. They have chosen not to go to schools, to universities, or even to work in solidarity with the Afghan women. These women and men are brave enough to take these steps knowing that the Taliban could incarcerate

them, torture them, and even kill them for resisting their measures.

The Taliban have not changed in the past two decades, but the Afghans have. They are aware of their rights, and they are raising their voices against the Taliban. The West must ensure that these voices are heard. The Afghan people need the support of the international community to be able to continue their fight. They must not be betrayed again.

Cracks in the system

The Taliban are not all powerful; in the past few months they have shown vulnerability. Frictions among the group’s members as well as Taliban commanders have surfaced. For instance, Sirajuddin Haqqani, Taliban’s acting defense minister, publicly criticized other Taliban leaders recently. “This situation can no longer be tolerated,” Haqqani told a religious gathering in southeastern Afghanistan. In a rare acknowledgement he said that some of the group’s policies are creating a wedge between the “system and the people”.

Haqqani’s criticism was directed at the Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada. Haqqani’s comments show there is a possibility that some Taliban leaders could be forced to change their ways, even respect the human rights of the people.

But should the international community negotiate with the Taliban on matters such as human rights, economy and security? The Taliban need foreign aid to run the country and using it as a bargaining chip could force the fundamentalist group to bend.

The international community needs to increase pressure on the Taliban and at the same time support Afghans in their struggle for freedom. It cannot afford to ignore the country lest it becomes a regional and international threat once again.

The Taliban have forced women to cover their faces, but they have not been able to silence their voices.
Recent Taliban rulings on Afghan women include bans on university education and working for NGOs.
© AP Photo / Ebrahim Noroozi

Elections in Turkey

will sail towards an open autocracy where democratic agency is reduced to elections while all other democratic rights cannot be exercised.

The modern Turkish Republic, founded in 1923, stands at a crossroads in its centenary. In the May 14 presidential and parliamentary elections this year, we will not only decide who will govern us for five years. Either democracy will begin to blossom again in Turkey, or the palace regime, now in its 21st year,

This may seem strange to readers accustomed to Western standards of democracy. You may wonder why the ballot box, one of the basic tools of democracy, has such a vital impact. As we know, in normal democracies, elections are just a vote in which democratic forces are put to work for the people according to their political leanings. In Turkey, however, the ballot box has become the sole means of democratic participation under the Erdoğan regime.

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The ballot box has become the sole means of democratic participation under the Erdoğan regime.

Erdoğan has closed all avenues other than voting to stifle the societal opposition which he regards as a threat to his hold on power. Especially after the Gezi protests in 2013, he escalated his polarizing rhetoric to neutralize the objections against him. On the one hand, he sanctified the ballot box, and on the other, he blocked democratic channels that had the power to be reflected at the ballot boxes. Through a judiciary which was shaped by the palace, it was not enough to imprison some opposition politicians and ban others from politics. Through police force and judicial pressures, Erdoğan has completely suppressed civil society, the business world and prevented all other voices from being heard.

The media was undoubtedly one of the areas most affected by Erdoğan’s steps to make his position absolute. The pressure, which started with firing critical journalists and imposing heavy fines on media outlets he did not like, has taken on a different

dimension since the 2010s, when Erdoğan became more confident of his power. He changed the ownership structure of the media to ensure complete control. He ensured that media outlets he disapproved of went into the ownership of businessmen close to him. These businessmen, who made their fortunes with state tenders, transformed the media outlets they bought until they did not pose a risk to Erdoğan. According to the statistics of Reporters Without Borders, 95 percent of the media is now directly or indirectly controlled by the palace. But Erdoğan had no tolerance for the remaining 5 percent. Smaller independent newspapers and TV-stations faced either advertising bans or fines from the state’s media regulatory agencies. Digital media and foreign media outlets broadcasting in Turkish were next in line. Internet publishing and social media, which are outside the palace’s control, were strangled by successive regulations. Access bans were imposed on international broadcasting organizations, including DW.

Erdoğan’s suppression of the democratic process and the media is not without reason. After the Gezi protests in 2013, which will go down in future history books as Turkey’s milestone, Turkish democracy started to go downhill.

Erdoğan began to implement an economic program based on repression to maintain his power and used corruption to finance his politics. The attempted coup in 2016 was, as Erdoğan blurted out in one of his speeches, “a blessing from God”. He used it as an excuse to silence the opposition and took the coup attempt as a pretext to pave the way for further expansion of his power and authority. The presidential system adopted in a referendum in 2017 greatly weakened Turkey’s ties with democracy. The election of the first president with sultan powers in the elections in 2018 was the most

95 percent of the media is controlled by the palace. But Erdoğan had no tolerance for the remaining 5 percent.
© CHP / Handout / Anadolu Agency

important break for Turkey since the Gezi protests. Erdoğan was empowered to pass laws and make all decisions for the country simply with his signature.

The order, in which the basic institutions of democracy were destroyed and slowly every decision was taken by the palace, brought Turkey to the edge of the abyss in economic terms. The move away from democracy and the rule of law first drove away foreign investors. Turkey had become unpredictable. Step by step many branches of the economy were dragged into bankruptcy. Turkey is a country with more than $400 billion in debt, with an annual foreign trade deficit of $120 billion, impoverished by annual inflation that exceeds 60 percent according to official figures from the palace and 100 percent according to reality.

We lost nearly 50,000 citizens in the recent earthquake, and our democracy and our wallet have been badly hurt for


a long time. This severe picture caused an erosion in Erdoğan’s potential votes. However, Erdoğan was initially able to consolidate his votes with nationalist and Islamist policies, and by keeping the lower income and middle classes on his side with populist steps. For some time the opposition parties were unable to turn into an alternative for broad sections of society. However, this picture looks set to change with the united opposition alliance, which was officially announced in March.

It all started when CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu repositioned his party as a Kemalist and social democratic party. By reaching out to different segments of society and disadvantaged groups, Kılıçdaroğlu succeeded in attracting parties founded by politicians who broke away from the ruling AKP, moderate nationalists and even the Islamist party where Erdoğan grew up. After two years of painful negotiations, the opposition alliance, dubbed the “six-party table”, had chosen Kılıçdaroğlu as their candidate to run against Erdoğan.

Two polls conducted after the announcement of the opposition’s joint candidate must have set alarm bells ringing in the palace. The polls predict that Erdoğan will bid farewell to the palace in the first round on May 14. Signals from the administration and the economy also suggest that Erdoğan is likely to lose. The constitutional court’s decision to restore the confiscated treasury funds to the Kurdish HDP and the drop in Turkey’s credit risk premium (CDS) after the announcement of Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy are important signs.

But we are talking about Erdoğan, who has ruled Turkey for 21 years. He will try anything to retain power. The ballot box, into which all democratic values are squeezed, will show if the Turkish Republic will enter its second century with a parliamentary system.

The polls predict that Erdoğan will bid farewell to the palace in the first round on May 14.
picture alliance / Associated Press / Christine Olsson / TT Leader of the People’s Party (CHP) Kemal Kilicdaroglu speaks during his party’s group meeting.
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan speaks at the parliament.

Facing off at the Olympic Games Athletes talk about boycott

The message was clear, concise and unsurprisingly for a former world champion heavyweight boxer packed a punch.

“The Russians are Olympic champions in crimes against civilians,” said the messenger, Vladimir Klitschko, standing in front of the shell of a missile-hit building. “They have the gold medal in the deportation of children and rape of women.”

And then, still staring steely-eyed into the camera of his mobile phone, Klitschko addressed the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Thomas Bach, directly.

“Do not make this monumental mistake,” said the boxer, a gold medalist at the Atlanta Games in 1996.

“History will judge you.”

The U-turn

With Russia’s war in Ukraine showing no sign of stopping any time soon, Klitschko is among a number of Ukrainian Olympians who have added their voices to a growing debate in world sport.

They cannot bear the idea of Russian athletes being allowed to compete at next year’s Paris Games when Russian missiles are raining down on Ukraine, especially when many of their countrymen and women won’t get the same chance because of Russia’s actions.

As campaign groups Global Athlete and Athletes for Ukraine noted in a joint statement earlier this year, such a move would suggest the IOC “endorses Russia’s brutal war and invasion of Ukraine (…) strengthening Russia’s propaganda machine, empowering the Putin regime and undermining peace.”

The problem, however, is that the IOC sees things very differently. It says sport should be autonomous, with sports bodies having the sole responsibility to decide which athletes can take part in international competitions.

In March, the organization said some Russians and Belarusians (Belarus is a major ally of Russia) should be allowed to participate as so-called Individual Neutral Athletes, without their national flags or anthems, citing their human rights: “Sanctions cannot solely be based on a person holding a passport from a particular nation.”

After recommending that global sports bodies ban Russian and Belarusian athletes from international competitions when the war broke out last year, the IOC, with Olympic qualifying events now getting underway, has completely reversed course and is expecting sports bodies to follow its lead.

“The International Olympic Committee has a strong recent track record of bending over backwards to include Russia in

© picture alliance/Eibner-Pressefoto 111 Weltzeit 2023

the Olympics, no matter what they do,” said Jules Boykoff, a professor of political science at Pacific University and author of “Power Games: A Political History of the Olympics.”

“There’s no question that they’ve shifted their position rather conspicuously over time, while showing a pretty obvious tolerance for tyranny coming from Russia.”

The threat

What the IOC might not have expected, though, was the strength of the backlash to its plan, first mooted in January, which it said was backed by the “vast majority” of Olympic stakeholders.

Poland, Ukraine’s neighbor to the west, immediately broke rank and mentioned the “B” word: a boycott.

Its sports minister, Kamil Bortniczuk claimed that a coalition of boycotting countries would be “broad enough to make holding the Games pointless.” Elaborating on his thoughts in an interview with the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Bortniczuk said: “Maybe we have to give an ultimatum: Either Russia or us.”

Behind the scenes, Ukraine has been lobbying the IOC to change its position. Its sports minister, Vadym Guttsait, who also heads the country’s Olympic Committee, says at least 220 Ukrainian athletes and coaches have died as a result of Russia’s invasion. More than 350 sports facilities are said to have been destroyed.

“Why in conversations about the protection of the rights of athletes in aggressor countries, no words are heard about the protection of the rights of those people who were attacked and who have been killed for almost a year?” Guttsait

wrote in February in a leaked letter to the IOC’s Bach.

Not that many Ukrainian athletes even want to share the field of play with competitors from Russia and Belarus.

“They died for me, they don’t exist in my life,” high jumper Yaroslava Mahuchikh, a bronze medalist at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, told DW earlier this year. “Russia is a terrorist state.”

The history

The talk of a boycott has forced the IOC to go on the defensive.

“It is extremely regretful to escalate this discussion with a threat of a boycott at this premature stage," it wrote in an extensive Q&A document on its website. "As history has shown, previous boycotts did not achieve their political ends and served only to punish the athletes.”

The last time that happened on a major scale was the tit-for-tat boycotts during the Cold War era. The United States led a more than 60-country boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980, and the Soviet Union and 14 other Eastern bloc states retaliated by skipping the Los Angeles Games four years later.

The Moscow boycott was particularly painful for a certain Thomas Bach, back then a fencer for West Germany. He won the gold medal in the team event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. But because his country was among those not taking part in Moscow, he was denied the chance to defend the title. For Bach, boycotts are personal.

Critics of his organization’s U-turn point to the banning of South African athletes from the Olympics during apartheid. Attempting to play down this argument in its Q&A document, the IOC emphasized that sportspeople were also affected by the South African government’s discriminatory race laws, and that the ban was underpinned by UN sanctions.

What it neglected to mention, however, is that Russia can veto any UN resolution due to its status as a permanent member of the Security Council. In other words: sanctions in this case would never be passed.

“There truly is no outside force of accountability when it comes to the Olympics,” Boykoff said. “That allows the International Olympic Committee to engage in selective morality, saying in one case, ’Yeah, now the United Nations is really valuable and we value their work,’ and then in other cases, ’Nah, not so much.’”

“If they just obeyed their own charter, it would be pretty clear that they would

In the end it’s on us, the athletes, to take responsibility for something we never decided.
Lea Krüger, German national team fencer
German fencer Lea Krüger thinks athletes are put in a tough position.
© picture alliance / Eibner-Pressefoto

need to start thinking seriously about penalizing Russia. If you have principles, why don’t you just abide by them?”

The athletes

Even if the IOC doesn’t budge from its current plan, an all-out sporting boycott remains unlikely. It is thought the coalition of countries seriously contemplating such a move will eventually wilt away to just Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic states.

Germany, which won’t act without a wide consensus, is a better measure of what will happen.

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, who is responsible for sport, condemned the IOC’s plan as “a slap in the face of Ukrainian athletes.” Likewise, the German Olympic Committee, the DOSB, opposes the readmission of Russia and Belarus, saying: “Now is not the right time.” But both Faeser and the DOSB reject the idea of a boycott. And the reason for that is the athletes.

“It’s our careers,” said Lea Krüger, a German national team fencer. “If we decide not to fence, we will give up our Olympic dreams and we will also give a stage to the Russians.”

For Paris hopeful Krüger, the debate has hit very close to home.

In March, fencing became the first Olympic sport to vote to overturn a ban on Russian and Belarusian athletes competing in its events, in line with the IOC’s new recommendations.

Until last year, the International Fencing Federation’s president and main donor was Russian billionaire Alisher Usmanov. He left his position because of the war, as did Stanislav Pozdnyakov, who

led the European Fencing Confederation. Pozdnyakov also happens to be the president of the Russian Olympic Committee; his daughter, Sofia, is a Russian fencer and double gold medalist in Tokyo.

“You see the connection between sports politics, fencing and Russia is very intense,” Krüger said. “The influence of Russia is huge in the sports system.”

The dilemma

One of the conditions for Russians and Belarusians to be able to compete in Paris is that they have not actively supported the war in Ukraine. But separating the athlete from the politics, and the war, is no easy task. According to Ukraine’s foreign ministry, 45 of Russia’s 71 medalists in Tokyo were members of the army club CSKA Moscow.

In February, a group of 34 countries (which includes Germany), who want to keep Russian and Belarusian athletes out of the Olympics, called on the IOC to clarify how it would guarantee neutrality.

The IOC has proposed excluding Russians and Belarusians from team events, as well as athletes who actively support the war (for example, posing in photos or at events with the letter “Z” a Russian military symbol) and who are contracted to the military.

“In order to ensure a harmonized interpretation of these criteria, the IFs (international federations) should consider creating a single independent panel under the umbrella of the IF associations (…) to take the decisions,” the IOC wrote in a guidance note.

Krüger accuses the IOC of effectively passing the buck, with athletes like her paying the price.

“None of these organizations take responsibility for their decisions,” she said. “The federations give the responsibility to the IOC and the IOC gives it back to the international federations.”

“And now we have the situation where I will be on the piste (the strip on which fencers compete) with a Russian athlete, and I have to decide how to act. In the end it’s on us, the athletes, to take responsibility for something we never decided.”

The 27-year-old Krüger, who’s a member of the DOSB’s athletes’ commission and a representative for the independent group Athletes Germany, says she and her teammates have already discussed the situation but don’t know what they will do yet.

“Now I have to make a decision about my career and the political things I stand for, and I think I should never be in this position as an athlete,” she said.

Separating the athlete from the politics, and the war, is no easy task.
© picture alliance / dpa / CTK 113 Weltzeit 2023
Protesters outside the Czech Olympic Committee in Prague.

How Bulgarian organized crime networks responded to shifting conditions

Human trafficking


The OSCE and the Council of Europe have urged Bulgaria to pursue a more ambitious policy action, including sustainable antitrafficking measures, and ensuring victims’ access to justice. As one of the key countries of origin for human trafficking in Europe, Bulgaria is expected to develop a robust strategy with a focus on prevention and bringing traffickers to justice.

Human trafficking first drew the attention of the Bulgarian media and politicians at the beginning of the EU accession negotiations (2002–2003). Western European governments were quite sensitive on the topic. The involvement of organized crime had driven the sharp increase in trafficked women after abolishing Schengen visas for Bulgarian citizens.

The sheer magnitude of trafficked victims shocked researchers and the general public in Bulgaria and in the destination countries. Official data from countries such as Germany and the Netherlands revealed that a small country like Bulgaria had become one of the most significant sources of victims, Bulgarian nationals making up for 14 percent of the victims of sexual exploitation in the Netherlands at the time. The situation was similar in other European countries. Based on the fragmented available data, the first criminological studies in Bulgaria indicated that the picture is even bleaker. Using as a starting point a study which indicated that

8 –10 percent of sex workers in Western Europe sought help as victims in 2004–2005 and the reported numbers of Bulgarian victims registered by different European countries, they suggested an estimate of Bulgarian women trafficked abroad in the ballpark of 18,000–21,000.

The police operations and journalistic investigations at that time revealed the severity of the situation in Bulgarian regional cities with a population of 30,000–100,000. One notable example is the town of Sliven, which became notorious in Brussels. In the city’s infamous red-light district at Gare du Nord, an estimated 90 percent of sex workers occupying the windows were from Bulgaria and 90 percent of those came from Sliven. This sensational case drew the attention of sociologists and criminologists to a city with a population of 100,000 citizens. A study conducted by the Center for the Study of Democracy (CSD), drawing on police records, revealed that about 500 suspected pimps in the city control almost 1,000 victims and some 70 percent

Text Atanas Rusev and Tihomir Bezlov, Center for the Study of Democracy, Sofia
/ Getty
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Victims of human trafficking end up working on the streets.

sell sex services outside of Bulgaria. A good illustration of the situation is a story shared with a professor at a Bulgarian university by his students from Sliven. The students told him: “Out of 22–25 people in our class, 2–3 boys became pimps and 5–6 girls became prostitutes”.

According to various criminological estimates, the revenue from sex services sold domestically and abroad annually in the period 2006–2010 amounted to between 900 million and 1.2 billion euros. To put this figure into context, it amounts to around 4 percent of the country’s GDP for 2007. According to some experts’ suggestions, 20 percent of these revenues from exploitation flowed back to Bulgaria.

The awareness about the scale of human trafficking for sexual exploitation raised a series of painful questions in Bulgaria in search for the reasons for the shockingly high numbers of victims of trafficking. A closer look into cases of trafficked victims revealed that the problem was related to the abrupt collapse of several social institutions in the 1990s. The most apparent was the acute crisis of the Bulgarian family since the 1990s witnessed record levels of divorces. A crisis in the Bulgarian educational system with record levels of non-attendance and undergraduates dropping out of school also unfolded in the same period.

However, it were not only the socio-economic factors that played out in the case of human trafficking. Criminological studies provided detailed accounts of the relationship between human trafficking and the “criminal infrastructure” for recruitment, transportation and exploiting victims abroad weekly shuttles to western European cities, the return of victims after three months spent abroad (due to the restrictions on visa-free stay before Bulgaria acceded

to the EU) and replacing them with new ones. Journalists also documented numerous examples from various Bulgarian cities of coercion and use of violence connected with the exertion of control over victims and taking away their income from sex work.

Undoubtedly, the Bulgarian institutions did not respond most quickly and effectively, but there was a reaction at the political level. Police services and judicial institutions came under political and media pressure. Looking back to this period, it is clear that the General Directorate Border Police (GGBP) and the General Directorate for Combating Organised Crime (GDCOC) have significantly increased their operations against traffickers. Many cross-border investigations against organized crime groups involved in human trafficking for sexual exploitation ensued, and part of them resulted in effective convictions.

Police investigations in some of the main trafficking source cities also led to the dismantling of several large criminal structures. Police statistics indicate that victim registrations and trafficking investigations increased particularly rapidly after Bulgaria became an EU member state in 2007.

Just last year, the US State Department’s office on human trafficking has returned Bulgaria to the Tier 2 watch list due to insufficient efforts by the government to tackle the problem. It was the first report since 2017 that lowered the country’s ranking and spurred many public media discussions between law enforcement institutions and various non-governmental organizations working against human trafficking. The Ministry of Interior argued that their investigations showed a gradual decline in the scale of human trafficking for sexual exploitation in the country.

Human trafficking has led thousands of women to prostitution.

The sheer magnitude of trafficked victims shocked researchers and the general public in Bulgaria.
© Anoek de Groot / AFP via Getty Images

Non-governmental organizations in Bulgaria insisted that there is an insufficient political will to counter trafficking for sexual exploitation in recent years. They see the low number of recorded victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation as an indication for law enforcement institutions having significantly reduced their activity. Another criticism was that authorities in Bulgaria only took action when approached by their European partners.

Research in recent years has shown a significant decline in most types of high-volume crime in the country. The most important reason is the severe demographic decline in the young population (nearly 30 percent) due to a low birth rate and emigration. Accordingly, Bulgaria can no longer be the same source of human trafficking as it was at the beginning of the century. The other significant demographic change is the young population moving to the larger Bulgarian cities with much better economic opportunities.

Economically, unemployment is at a record low level (below 4 percent) and incomes have increased sharply, resulting in much less motivation to participate in the sex services market or employment under uncertain conditions. In addition, Bulgarian citizens

now have full access to the European labor market.

But the problem remains. Pimping networks continue to operate on a local level, where they actively recruit in schools, universities and entertainment venues. Bulgarian police and prosecution authorities still don’t fully acknowledge the problem and fail to invest more resources. Insufficient victim protection is one of the reasons why many victims withdraw their testimonies or refuse to testify against traffickers in court.

Meanwhile, Bulgarian criminal networks have adapted and managed to set a foothold in many western European cities. They created a durable “infrastructure” for the trafficking and exploitation of women by investing in various assets (such as bars, hotels, and apartments) and a well-functioning internet recruiting network.

The criminal infrastructure and the culture of the “easy income” from paid sex, combined with the current apathetic reaction of Bulgarian and European law enforcement institutions, will not allow for a substantial reduction in the number of victims in the coming years. Bulgaria still is second in the EU in the number of victims relative to the population.

The alternative is for Bulgarian authorities to comprehensively assess the economic, health and social harms associated with human trafficking and prioritize the fight against it. Law enforcement institutions can effectively disrupt trafficking networks only if they focus on the level of recruitment. Currently, the police primarily investigate cases where a victim reports somewhere in western Europe. Although such investigations may eventually result in the conviction of the traffickers, experience shows that the impact on criminal networks is limited.

Focusing on high-risk cities and neighborhoods, investigating trafficking networks’

recruiters at the source would more effectively disrupt trafficking. The Bulgarian law enforcement structures have demonstrated that they have the necessary capacity, despite the high levels of corruption. A good example was the destruction of illegal cigarette distribution networks in 2016–2018. Despite the deep-rooted tradition and the massive scale of the illicit cigarette trade, within five years Bulgaria went from a top country to one with the lowest levels of illegal cigarette consumption in the EU. Through a better-targeted approach and clear political will, the country would no longer be a significant source of trafficking victims in the EU.

There is an insufficient political will to counter trafficking for sexual exploitation.
© Stefano Guidi / Getty Images
117 Weltzeit 2023
Red-light district in Amsterdam.
Wissam Nassar

What inspires your artistic work?

I live in Turkey and I can observe the problems of war, conflict and refugees very closely. The photograph of the child Alan, who was one of the thousands of people who drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean in 2015, left a profound impression. Turkey is currently hosting millions of refugees and immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and African countries. I believe that those of us who live in peace should understand the pain and destruction caused by war and conflicts. That’s why I decided to present two different photographs as one image with two perspectives. In my works, I include collage works on issues that concern us all, such as armed conflicts, socio-economic problems, women’s and children’s rights and environmental issues.

Which impact do you hope to make?

My account on Instagram has 1 million followers from all over the world. Teachers in schools are using my images, showing them to students in countries such as Brazil, Germany, Australia, South Africa and several more. I want to raise awareness and subsequently empathy by drawing

attention to the problems people experience through visual art, which I think is the master of languages. My first book, Parallel Universes of Children, had quite an impact. It was published in honor of World Children’s Day 2020. We aim to draw attention to children’s rights by showing the problems of children around the world and how they are deprived of these rights. And as a result of showing my work on social media, we already did several projects with institutions and non-profit organizations like UNDP, SDG Action, ICRC, World Vision and lately with WHO Foundation and Doctors Without Borders.

Does art have a responsibility to comment on crises?

I think that art is an important tool to create awareness and empathy in the face of crises. As human beings, we do not understand the real depth of the problems that we see in the news, and what the people who experience those problems are going through. I use people, figures and objects from everyday life to make them touch us more. Only in this way can we understand and empathize with what is happening to our fellow citizens. Sometimes we need to be reminded, for it not to happen again. I hope that we can use empathy to generate action to minimize these problems.

Weltzeit 2023 119
… explained by Uğur Gallenkuş

Uğur Gallenkuş

is a digital collage artist. His first book, Parallel Universes of Children, takes the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as its impetus, aiming through 50 collages to convey the essential rights each child should have.


© Yasin Akgül
© Uğur Gallenkuş
I think that art is an important tool to create awareness and empathy in the face of crises.
121 Weltzeit 2023
© Yasin Akgül

Developing media. Supporting human rights.

Now more than ever.

Free media. Free opinion. Free people. That’s what DW Akademie stands for. As DW’s center for international media development, journalistic training and knowledge transfer, our projects strengthen the human right to freedom of expression and unhindered access to information in over 70 countries worldwide. This mission has never been more important.

Because: The war in Ukraine is also an information war. Right after the invasion began, the Russian occupiers destroyed broadcasting towers, stormed editorial offices, closed printing plants, threatened journalists or forced them to cooperate by force. Russia is deliberately using disinformation to weaken democracy and civil society. And this is by no means limited to Europe: the war in Ukraine and its consequences are overlaying and exacerbating the already precarious situation of the population in the Global South. The geopolitical and economic crisis is impacting the livelihoods of billions of people and threatening security and stability worldwide.

Global information war

The fighting in Ukraine is flanked by an unprecedented propaganda campaign orchestrated by the Russian leadership not only in post-Soviet countries but also in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. In this way, Russia succeeds in drawing governments and populations to its side in many places.

China, Iran, and other dictatorships are also increasingly invested in the global struggle for narratives and interpretive sovereignty. Authoritarian models of governance and development are on the rise, reducing the scope for press freedom and freedom of expression worldwide: according to UNESCO, 85 percent of the world’s population experienced restrictions on press freedom in their country in the last five years. More and more media professionals are being threatened, arbitrarily arrested or imprisoned. On all continents, journalists are exposed to increasing violence.

123 Weltzeit 2023
DW Akademie and TNN have trained Afghan community reporters and Pakistani journalists in constructive journalism.

Disinformation can cost lives

Independent media are indispensable for countering autocratic tendencies. The media plays a crucial role in highlighting injustices and strengthening transparency and good governance. Especially in times of war and crisis, misinformation can cost lives, dangerously fuel regional conflicts, and jeopardize democratic achievements. Beyond humanitarian aid, there is therefore an acute need for reliable information and effective media strategies to address these multiple and mutually fueling crises.

Media development has a preventive effect

In this context, our projects have a preventive effect: If citizens have access to reliable information, they can make responsible decisions. When they can freely express their opinions, an open social discourse emerges. When journalists can work professionally, transparency emerges. Media development work can thus also advance the implementation of the 2030 Agenda. For only informed societies can overcome crises and conflicts, fight poverty and hunger, deal with the consequences of climate change and create equal opportunities for girls and women.

Indigenous youth in Guatemala, with support from DW Akademie and its partner Comunicares, produce audio segments and videos in their language to explain the competent handling of information.

This is what we are working for: We train Ukrainian local journalists in the embattled east and south of the country, support fact-checking initiatives in Burkina Faso, help build independent exile media for Myanmar, modernize university journalism training in Uzbekistan, and cooperate with community radios and schools in Bolivia to develop educational programs for the country’s rural regions. Together with our local partners, we are thus creating spaces for individuals and social groups, giving them access to reliable information, as well as self-confidence, knowledge and ultimately participation in overcoming conflicts and crises in their home countries.

Crises fuel crises

This is all the more important at a time of multiple crises such as we are currently experiencing: In addition to the immediate consequences of the attack on Ukraine death, destruction, and displacement the war has also shaken food and energy security in many parts of the world. Russia is thus indirectly fueling distribution struggles and social unrest. This particularly threatens vulnerable populations in the Global South. States are being destabilized. The struggle for scarce resources clashes with the increasing effects of the climate crisis, such as droughts and floods. The crises fuel each other with devastating consequences for the affected societies.

These multiple conflict situations come up against media systems that are already in a precarious situation. The Corona pandemic has caused advertising revenues in the media sector to plummet dramatically. Economic crises, rising energy prices and galloping inflation are threatening to finally deprive smaller, local media houses of their financial basis. Media companies and media professionals are being called upon to rethink business models and explore new avenues. New forms of reporting are needed to strengthen people’s trust, especially in local media, and to effectively counter attempts to influence them.

Digital transformation both an opportunity and a threat

Digital change is both part of the solution and part of the problem: Social media in particular has revolutionized the global exchange of information and opinions. Never has more information been exchanged in less time; never has it been easier for individuals to raise their

If citizens have access to reliable information, they can make responsible decisions.
© Celso Solano, Comunicares

voices. People are networking, creating a counter-public sphere and stimulating lively debates.

However, in the face of war and crises and the rise of authoritarian regimes, the negative sides of this new information architecture are also becoming apparent: digital media are being deliberately used by state and non-state actors to spread misinformation, stifle inconvenient opinions, increase polarization and undermine social discourse. Marginalized populations in structurally weak areas and people on the run are particularly affected. Crisis communication does not reach them, and their voices are lost in the public discourse.

Together with our partners, we therefore train media users to move safely on digital platforms and to critically question content. Together with the media and media professionals, we seize the opportunities of digitization for example, by supporting them in developing sustainable business models. Because we are convinced that a strong, pluralistic media landscape and an independent, efficient media sector are the key to overcoming the multiple crises of our time.





DW Akademie and the Media Challenge Initiative in Uganda have developed a curriculum with its aim to teach children Media and Information Literacy in a playful and interactive way.

DW Learn German On-the-go and for free

The platform offers free and mobile German lessons for everyone worldwide. The course package was recently given the eLearning AWARD 2023 in the language learning category.

The Telenovela “Nico’s Weg” offers A1 learners the chance to learn German, as well as for more advanced students to increase their knowledge. The course is available in 14 languages, including Arabic, Brazilian, English, French, Farsi and Ukrainian.

For advanced students, the course includes slowly spoken news clips. Complementary, interactive tasks can be accessed and worked on via a smartphone or tablet. And social media offerings via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and TikTok allow for interacting with other users and DW team members. Accompanying study materials can be downloaded for free.

With this comprehensive offer, DW was recognized with the eLearning AWARD 2023 in the language learning category. Jury members noted the extensive curriculum available in 14 languages, with more to come.


Download the DW Learn German App: Apple Store Google Play

125 Weltzeit 2023
© Media Challenge Initiative © Olga Berdikyan
Gavin Rees has done work with the psychological consequences of journalistic reporting for more than 15 years and is a senior advisor for the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma Europe.

Understanding trauma could be the key to resiliency

Whether covering the war in Ukraine, or reporting on the deadly earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, journalists are frequently confronted with traumatizing images. According to advisor Gavin Rees, journalists need not only protective vests but also psychological resilience training.

Together with its local partner API (Association of Independent Press) in Moldova, DW Akademie is increasingly focusing on the safety of media professionals. At a recent training session participants discussed not only physical safety and first aid for journalists, but also reflected on issues of mental health and resilience. Gavin Rees has done work with the psychological consequences of journalistic reporting for more than 15 years and is a senior advisor for the DART Center for Journalism and Trauma Europe.

When we talk about safety for journalists, we often talk about physical protection and frontline situations. Do you think psychological dangers are often ignored?

When we talk about physical safety, we often talk about making good decisions in very stressful environments.

The more we understand about our

own psychology, when we are exposed to trauma and violence, the better we can make informed judgements. When journalists get into longer term psychological difficulties, it is very often due to the involvement with trauma-affected populations and feeling overwhelmed by the content. It’s quite easy for journalists to become burned out or jaded or to have all kinds of vulnerabilities that come from working with traumatic content. So, the more we understand about trauma, the more resilient we are likely to be. This isn’t about being self-indulgent and prioritizing our personal feelings over the populations that we are reporting on. It’s actually about understanding the connection between our own psychological state and how effective we are with our job.

What are your main takeaways from this training?

Journalists from Moldova have a lot of resources. They have their experience and their skills. But maybe they haven’t had as many opportunities yet to come together and talk about what might help them deal with topics like intimidation, online harassment and so on. People might sometimes feel overwhelmed when they are attacked, but actually within the community here there are plenty of resources and ways of expressing solidarity.

Moldova is very close to the war in Ukraine. Do you have the feeling that this has an impact on the media professionals here?

I’m sure it has an impact. You might think about it as some extra added background radiation. It might not be something the people here are consciously thinking about all the time, but the potential of war coming to the country, along with the divisions that have affected Moldova have created an environment that highlights the current sense of threat and stress that is being felt.

Social media has become an additional threat to journalists. Are there groups that are especially vulnerable in this regard?

Journalists covering topics like crime and corruption get more threats and hate messages. Some political and criminal actors resort to using online abuse because it can be very effective in

We need greater awareness to the various ways that negative and threatening content can affect us as journalists.
127 Weltzeit 2023

undermining people. We see this particularly on issues surrounding disinformation and so-called fake news, in the sense that it undermines professional values and it can even make journalists doubt their purpose, which is very corrosive. Online abuse is a targeted weapon used by a few to silence journalists and to prevent them from doing their job which is to report on what is going on here in Moldova and the region.

We live in an era of multiple crises: Climate change, the effects of the pandemic and of course the war in Europe. Do journalists need a new toolset that makes them more resilient?

What we need is greater awareness to the various ways that negative and threatening content can affect us as journalists. It’s very important to have a better understanding about what trauma and stress are and of the ways they can affect us. That understanding makes it much easier to mitigate those impacts. Shared knowledge and understanding are crucial tools in helping individuals develop their own strategies for resilience. And resilience is not just up to an individual to foster. It also exists in the connections that we have with others. The more knowledge we have the better we can look out for ourselves and our colleagues, while finding ways to deal with intimidation and other forms of threats.

What is your advice for journalists on how to deal with the stressful reality that they are seeing and reporting on every day?

A lot of the evidence suggests that the most important thing is social connections and solidarity. Another one is to have a strong sense of meaning, purpose and understanding as to why we are working as journalists. People sometimes also call it a “mission”, but you can think about it as values. If you look at the various actors in the world who try to silence journalists and who do it through tactics of abuse, you understand what they do is not only attack journalists as individuals but also journalistic values. And the most important thing for journalists is to stick to our values and to give the public the information it needs to make tricky and consequential decisions. Also, very importantly, we need time for recovery to make sense of things and to make the right judgements about what to concentrate on.

Hannah Arendt Initiative: Network for the protection of journalists and media

Media professionals who either work in or in exile from war and crisis zones are being supported through a new protection program: The Hannah Arendt Initiative. Launched in 2022 by Germany’s Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the initiative currently supports journalists and their media houses from Afghanistan, Ukraine, Russia and Belarus, for example, through training measures, fellowship programs and consulting.

DW Akademie coordinates the network of civil society organizations working together to realize the initiatives’ goals, including the European Fund for Journalism in Exile (JX Fund), MiCT Media in Cooperation and Transition, and the European Center for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF). Furthermore, DW Akademie conducts discussions and interviews around the world to draw a precise picture of the threat situation of journalists and to identify possible gaps and newly emerged needs. Dialogue forums were organized by DW Akademie in Georgia, Lebanon, South Africa and in Latin American countries, to talk to those affected and with regional experts about the threats and necessary assistance for journalists at risk.


© nesterenko_max/AdobeStock 128 MEDIA DEVELOPMENT


Strengthening the voices of women

129 Weltzeit 2023

When she was growing up in Yemen, Abeer Abdullah recalls, her mother once handed her a garlic pestle to play with. It may have been an unusual gesture, but soon, Abeer came upon the idea to pretend it was a microphone, and she brought it to school so that she could stage interviews with her classmates.

After her parents separated, Abdullah’s mother moved back in with her parents, while Abeer lived with her father. Yemen’s stringent rules against women’s independence struck Abdullah, though young, as somehow wrong.

Abdullah reflected on how she might do better and make a difference. Specifically, she wondered how to give a voice to those suffering from the war or social injustice. She imagined life as a journalist, reporting on Yemen’s complex and persistent social restrictions, about life in a country perpetually at war and impoverished.

Her mother pushed for educating her daughter, and her father finally relented. “He allowed me to go to school and later to university, but he wanted me to be either a teacher or a doctor. I didn’t like either option, so I chose business administration,” explains Abdullah.

Still, working as a journalist remained in her mind. Then, after her father’s death, she switched her studies to radio and broadcast journalism. But in 2015, with war in Yemen, she had to stop attending school.

Rather than feeling aggrieved or discouraged, Abdullah found that she could still chronicle what she saw around her: the everyday ordeal of Yemenis navigating the dangers of war, dealing with shortages of almost everything, how pregnant women managed amid both fighting and pandemic, and on survival in a displacement camp, as well as the unique challenges facing African refugees in Yemen. She paid attention to outcasts, the so-called “Akhdam,” an ethnic group marginalized because of their dark skin.

Eventually, Abdullah got a job with Sanaa TV to report from her hometown, Taizz. She would later also work at a radio station in Ibb, midway between Sanaa and Taizz, searching for stories that steered clear of politics and instead gave viewers and listeners a sense of average citizens surviving distress. Abdullah found generous and skillful mentors, including a

© Nabil Kumaim/DW © Zainab Alzhairi Abeer Abdullah is a trainer for the DW Akademie project “Women’s Perspectives”.
offers women journalists in Yemen and Iraq both general and advanced professional training so that they can investigate and report on social, economic and political topics relevant to women in their countries.

TV editor who encouraged her to “stay independent, don’t side with any political party, and stay focused on humanitarian issues.”

Abdullah is drawn to reporting about those who are suffering from war and injustice, on the daily indignities and hardships many people in Yemen endure. She seeks out women and children who are in fact the country’s most vulnerable. Through it all, she says her objective is to remain impartial, open yet skeptical a challenge in itself as she witnesses misery and oppression.

“I am just glad that I have this work that I have been dreaming so long of doing,” she says. “I don’t want to let down the people I’m reporting about and I want to tell the world their stories.”

Abdullah strikes an impressive figure, although she retains modesty with both a matter-of-fact and sympathetic demeanor. Travel in Yemen being dangerous for women, she always has someone with her when she’s on the road to an

assignment and wears a niqab when circumstances call for it.

Abdullah took part in an extensive DW Akademie training project, improving her craft. She is now herself a qualified trainer for the current DW Akademie project “Women’s Perspectives”. The project which is supported by Germany’s Foreign Ministry, offers women journalists in Yemen and Iraq both general and advanced professional training so that they can investigate and report on social, economic and political topics relevant to women in their countries (the program will include Sudan later this year). Typically, women journalists in these countries work in the shadow of their male counterparts, if they are allowed to work at all.

Several groups of women journalists in Yemen have participated in the training already, and Abdullah worked as a trainer with the groups in Aden and Taizz. She is also a regular contributor, reporting for DW from Yemen.

131 Weltzeit 2023
Typically, women journalists in these countries work in the shadow of their male counterparts, if they are allowed to work at all.
© Nabil Kumaim/DW

DW trainees Predicting the future

What will journalism be like in 20 years?

We asked DW trainees to share their thoughts about the future of their field.

Ferenc Gaál

100%. I wake up from my recharge, get to work right away: Scan the latest news on the neural network, evaluate, send a select few to my editor. 30 seconds tops. It helps that we don’t have to wait for our ordinary human colleagues anymore, with their slow little brains and actual screens, sitting in an actual office. ’We’, that’s DW’s new Cy-J Unit. Part-human, part-machine, our mission is to bridge the gap between humans and the old-school AI that has been working in DW’s newsrooms for a while now. It used to be everyone’s big hope, but it turned out, the humans couldn’t quite handle it. Shocker, I know. With many old-school human journos like my former self barely standing the pace, and bioengineering becoming ever safer (sort of), the next step was inevitable. Now, the challenge for us cyborgs is to keep up with AI while ensuring human reasoning and fair reporting.

Mona Westholt

Happy, healthy and harmonious employees. It’s the year 2043. Gen Z took over DW years ago. What was once a generation mocked for its presumed laziness now accomplished what even the biggest workaholics secretly wished for. We have a “passion to work” because we work less hours, we have four-day work weeks. On the downside, AI is responsible for many journalists losing their jobs but the ones who kept their profession benefit from it: fact-checking, copywriting and video editing AI makes up for the productivity lost in shorter work weeks. I am on my way to the DW co-working space. The big newsroom became history a long time ago. We work from home and sometimes in this smaller, shared office space. Today we meet to toast to two occasions: It’s not just the 90th anniversary of DW, but our Gen Z boss has also finally signed the death certificate of the fax machine. The sun is up, the music is loud, (work-)life is good even if journalism is still in crisis, and I doubt that will ever change.

© Florian Görner/DW
© Florian Görner/DW

Mathis Richtmann

April 2043, temperature 38 degrees, somewhere in eastern Europe. For two weeks we have been reporting from the five gigantic refugee camps along the external borders of the European Union. Since it became clear that the 2-degree target is history, even more people are seeking shelter with us. Several computer-controlled projection cameras circle around me, recording a three-dimensional image of me and my surroundings. I describe live as I see it, report facts and supply context, while the images from the projection cameras, which keep an eye on the surroundings, react to my cues. Artificial Intelligence responds to any pre-programmed form of movement or action for image editing. It merges the video streams in such a way that users are presented with a live reportage on the screens of their handheld devices that even allows for the subjective perspective that first revolutionized video games decades ago. The viewer has never been this close before. The more the tools of journalism change to reach an audience more interested in entertainment, the more we need to find ways to salvage the content.

Julett Pineda

The digital forensics team at the news desk has been on 24-hour-shifts for some time now. Conspiratory bots and deep fake videos strive to pollute our content across digital platforms. It’s hard to know exactly when the “junk attacks” started, but everyone agrees they worsened after the coming of age of generative-AI chatbots. DW is adapting to the challenge of delivering objective information, but the good news is that we can now rely on real-time AI-adaptation thanks to our in-house software. Most people are skeptical about implementing AI-generated anchors to present news 24/7. Sure, it can enhance distribution and engagement, but we must ponder its ethical and technical concerns, especially with authoritarian regimes exploiting them for propaganda. A few months back, the program behind an AI-anchor from a major media house glitched in front of millions of primetime viewers - it was embarrassing. Meanwhile, Audience Development is excited to implement its first predictive news model for Gen Beta. We can start preparing content to cater to this target group while the desk also looks for new ways to crack algorithms. Users can now tailor their news experience as if it was a music playlist, so we are working on new strategies to break tighter echo-chambers.

© Florian Görner/DW
133 Weltzeit 2023
© Florian Görner/DW

The hope for a better future

A conversation with Margot Friedländer

For many years, you have been speaking to young people in Germany, telling them about your experiences. You are now 101 years old, what is your incentive to keep doing this even at an advanced age?

Because I have managed to survive. And it means something to me to speak for those who didn’t make it. It is essential that I speak not only for the 6 million Jews, but for all those who were murdered. I don’t tell young people about the concentration camp and what happened exactly, they know that. I tell them what it would mean for them to experience that. That it simply wasn’t human. They didn’t recognize people as people. I speak about it, because I absolutely cannot process it. It’s impossible for me to understand how people gave their hand to do that. To just murder not hundreds, not thousands, but millions of people.

How do you experience the young people you meet?

I really have to say, I didn’t even realize how it was coming across. But I have received countless thank-you notes in which they tell me: We have heard you, it has touched and shaken us tremendously. We understand you, you can count on us. So many children

then send me very wonderful letters of their gratitude and appreciation for what I do. That makes me realize I have achieved something, just by speaking about it.

And how do you feel about telling this story over and over again? How difficult is that for you even today, or is it getting easier?

I don’t have the justification to think of myself after what happened to the millions. All of you help me by listening to me saying that I have hope that something like this will not happen again. For people to realize what has been, that it was not human that helps me, because we cannot change it. It must not happen again. It is something so unimaginable for your generation and even when I talk to you today and ask, if you can understand it now, they tell me we can’t understand it. Millions were cheering then and those who did not cheer looked away. They too are at least as guilty. Why did so many look away, and why did so many cheer? In front of their neighbors, people of all ages have been dragged out of their homes and into trucks.

People have been beaten and abused in front of people who silently watched or looked the other way. Can it happen again? I talk about it as a

You are learning for yourselves, not for your parents, not for your teachers — it is for your future.

Margot Friedländer was born in Berlin in 1921. Several attempts by the family to emigrate after the November pogroms of 1938 failed. When her brother Ralph was arrested in January 1943, their mother turned herself in to the Gestapo, was deported to Auschwitz together with her son, and was murdered there.

Friedländer, then 21 years old, went into hiding and survived for 15 months in 16 different underground hiding places in Berlin. In the spring of 1944, she encountered a patrol of so-called “graspers” Jews who were forced to track down and extradite other Jews on behalf of the SS.

She was arrested and taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. There she reencountered Adolf Friedländer, an acquaintance from her work as a costume dressmaker with the Jewish Cultural League in Berlin.

Together, Margot and her husband survived the Holocaust, married and emigrated to New York in 1946.

In 2008, her autobiography “Versuche, dein Leben zu machen” (Rowohlt) was published.

In 2010, Friedländer moved to Berlin, where she still lives today. She regained her German citizenship.

Sarah Hofmann
Weltzeit 2023 135

warning to you. Never, never do I hope that you will be the people who would allow something like this to happen. Because at least I can speak for those who didn’t survive it. For the millions who were murdered. That is my mission. Don’t let this happen again!

You lived in the US for more than 60 years. Your husband who survived the Theresienstadt ghetto with you never wanted to return to Germany. After his death, however, you decided to move back to Berlin, the city of your birth. Why?

I was born in Berlin, a true Berliner. When I came back to Berlin for the first time in 57 years in 2003, I felt “at home”, and I said, I am so happy to have been born in such a beautiful city. Inwardly I thought, well, if I were younger, I would consider coming back. Seven years later in 2010 I did it. I am German this is my home. It was also the home of my parents and ancestors. My father was highly decorated in WWI, he lost a brother for Germany, my mother lost one, too. My father did not recognize it at that time, he said, they do not mean us. Even in 1935, when my aunt, my mother’s sister, and her husband left for Brazil, my father said, I can’t understand you, you are giving up your good business. Until 1938 he did not believe it. My uncle disagreed. Who was right? Kristallnacht was the moment when many, many said, now we believe it, now we have to leave. By then it was too late.

Still, when you ask why I came back: One big factor was that Germans helped me in the difficult times. Germans were people, too. They hid me, shared their bed and food with me. There was people who did not look away, who did something that could have cost them their heads. It wasn’t just the 16 people or so who helped me. It’s not like I was the only one who went into hiding and was helped. However, there were too few. But it shows that something could have been done. If more people had stepped up, it wouldn’t have happened to this incredible extent, because when you think about how outrageous it was… It’s unbelievable. I’m glad I can tell you about it today. I am grateful every day. This has become my life.

In 1944, you were arrested not far from where we’re sitting right now, on Kurfürstendamm. How does it feel when you walk along this street today?

Because I made it, and I can walk along there today, I often say to myself: you made it, you are here. Those who betrayed me and many other Jews, did not survive, even though they were promised they would. There were also Jews who betrayed others, that is something that hurts a lot. But I don’t know how I would have behaved if I had been told that you could save your mother and your brother. It’s still very difficult for me today to even comprehend what was in the character of those people.

In recent years, anti-Semitism has again increased sharply in Germany and Europe. Are you worried about Jews in Germany?

I have to tell you honestly: anti-Semitism is nothing new. It has always been around, and I think, unfortunately, it always will be. We can only hope it stays on a small scale. It’s always people who are looking for something, who are never satisfied with their lives, even though their lives have always been in their own hands from an early age.

That’s why I always say to students: My brother Ralph was 17 when he came to Auschwitz, he was always top of his class, but he never had the chances you have, don’t throw them away. You are learning for yourselves, not for your

parents, not for your teachers it is for your future. You have it in your hands to make your life. Do your best, don’t look for the impossible. I try my best to be human, because I think there is something good in everyone. And that is how the bad fades away. To say to the people I meet, look at what I have experienced, and I am not bitter. I am confident because I now meet many, many people especially young people who hope for a good future.

You also meet many politicians. How do you view democracy in Germany?

I am very, very confident. Steinmeier gave a speech the other day, for 80 years of the White Rose. In his speech he quoted me. He wrote to me, and the signature was, “Your friend”, first name. I see the government and I am very confident for the future.

Recently you were awarded the Federal Cross of Merit, First Class. What does such an award mean to you as someone who was deprived of German citizenship, who was persecuted?

It’s a relief for them, for the Germans. It doesn’t matter to me. The thank you letters I receive mean much more to me, because they tell me you have achieved something. The government can’t make up for what happened, but people feel the enormous burden it is for us. We who have survived it are not the same people anymore, we are different. It’s something that always holds us back from having a normal life, that is, enjoying ourselves without thinking. For me, it’s a great help to speak for those who haven’t made it.

You say you speak for those who didn’t survive it. You wear the necklace of your mother, who was murdered in Auschwitz, as was your brother. Is your mother also always present in some way when you speak?

It is something unimaginable for me. A gratitude that you can’t describe. A gratitude for my mother. The strength she had and the weakness. What it must have been like for her to leave a child behind and say, I’m going with Ralph, wherever. A mother knows her children. She must have hoped I was the stronger one. But where did she expect to be taken? Could she have guessed? We were always told the trains were going “to the East”. But we didn’t know what “the East” was. When

I hope that you have the strength to help and make sure it never happens again.

I came to Theresienstadt and was there for half a year, I thought maybe Mutti was in a similar place. But only when the trains came from Auschwitz and I saw the people and experienced what “the East” is, then we knew what to expect. That’s why when people ask me how the liberation was for me, I have mixed feelings, because that’s when I first experienced what it really was. It was nice, we were liberated. But what will become of us now? We were young and inexperienced, and surely, we would have no relatives to help us. Now a new life was ahead of us. I had a middle school education, had done an apprenticeship as a seamstress for almost two years and knew a little bit about sewing. What would become of me?

So I was incredibly happy to meet Mr. Friedländer in Theresienstadt at the beginning of February 1945. We knew each other from Berlin, we had something in common to talk about. We experienced the liberation together and were married in Theresienstadt in June, the day before the last rabbi left Theresienstadt. We were married for 52 years. It was my great happiness.

Speaking of that moment of liberation with mixed feelings, could you have imagined staying in Germany, the country of the perpetrators, at that time?

Not at the time. Definitely not especially for my husband, who in no way wanted to stay in Germany, despite wonderful professional opportunities for him. But still, my feelings about Germany were somewhat different, since I had also met decent Germans. When people in New York later learned about my decision to go back to Berlin, they asked me: how can you go back to the perpetrators? I answered, these are not the perpetrators I am going to. They are the third, fourth generation. They have nothing to do with what happened. I am not Hitler, I respect people. So how can I hold them responsible for what happened? They are the third or fourth generation born afterwards, that wouldn’t be fair.

What about German responsibility doesn’t that also apply to the third and fourth generations?

What happened was not right and that gives your generation the feeling we have to do things differently. That’s human and I’m grateful for that. Listen to me! Believe what I am telling you. Isn’t it a good feeling for you that I don’t blame you for something you can’t do anything about? Isn’t it human? I look at you as human beings and not for what has been done and I hope that you have the strength to help and make sure it never happens again.

Is there also something like anger that sometimes arises in you, especially here in Germany?

My husband and I both experienced the same thing and if we didn’t feel well, we knew why. We didn’t need to speak. What good would it have done us to be angry?

We wanted to try and make a life for both of us that would bring us satisfaction and a certain security. That was our desire in the US. We also didn’t talk about it with our friends who had managed to escape Germany in time, because almost everyone had relatives who had perished. Why should we make it even harder for them? I really only experienced good things from the first day in Germany, from the first reading on, after my book was published in 2008. I gave readings in a lot of German cities, in schools, churches or organizations, and people understood me and were grateful to me for talking about it, despite everything that happened. It is my life today and I speak for those who can no longer do it. It has given me a life. I turned 101 years old and I feel gratitude, especially for the fact that my head can still think totally clear and I can still talk to you about what has happened with the hope that it will never happen again For all of you!

Margot Friedländer and Sarah Hofmann.
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© Sarah Hofmann / DW

Rallies around the world have shown support for the Iranian people.

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Woman Life Freedom

Only five years ago, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, derided the supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, saying he “makes Hitler look good”. In March, in a wildly unexpected development, the Saudis not only re-established diplomatic relations with Tehran but also spoke of the countries “sharing one fate”.

The diplomatic rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran after years of facing off in proxy conflicts across the Middle East is being touted as a major coup that will bring relief for the Islamic Republic which is grappling with international isolation and an economy waylaid by years of mismanagement, corruption and graft.

It would be a mistake to read too much into the announcement or view the diplomatic rapprochement as a major positive development

that Tehran can use to deal with growing opposition to the clerical rule. The future of Iran will be decided not in Washington or Beijing or even Berlin, but by Iranians.

Six months after the death in police custody of 22-yearold Mahsa Jina Amini, who was arrested for wearing the hijab incorrectly, the protests are still ongoing. The wave of angry and bloody demonstrations and boycotts which spread to more than 100 cities and exhausted the country’s security forces has tailed off. But the reality is that we are now entering a new phase, and the protests are now both more widespread and diffuse in response to the brutal tactics used by the regime.

The initial phase of the revolution was all about action and movement. But all movements need a pause, to catch their breath, to prepare for the next phase which is political organization.

Text Masih Alinejad
All movements need a pause, to catch their breath, to prepare for the next phase which is political organization.
Weltzeit 2023 139
© Geoffroy van der Hasselt / AFP via Getty Images

Masih Alinejad

is an Iranian-American journalist, author and a women’s rights activist.

She has lived in exile in New York since 2009. In January 2023, the US Department of Justice announced the arrest and indictment of three members of an East European organized crime syndicate who had plotted to assassinate Alinejad.

@alinejadmasih masih.alinejad

The Iranian government has endured major protests before, notably in 2009, 2017, and 2019, but the demonstrations after the death of Mahsa Amini were and still are different. They embody the anger that Iranian women and young Iranians in general feel toward a regime that seeks to stifle their dearest desires. And unlike past protests, the demonstrators aren’t just calling for reform but rather aim to upend Iran’s establishment.

Thousands of protesters in hundreds of cities risked their lives to say no to the Islamic Republic. It is said that revolutions devour their children, but in Iran the grandchildren are challenging the Islamic regime. And many have paid with their lives. More than 500 have been

killed and some 20,000 were arrested.

Iran’s clerics have responded to this existential challenge with brute force, but such tactics will not snuff out the will of a nation so outraged by its government.

At the same time, the regime denies it all. Of course, such denial is part of the Islamic Republic’s tool kit. The regime to this day blames foreign elements for Mahsa’s death and dismisses reports that any protesters have been arrested.

In a recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Iran’s foreign minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian said: “I can tell you this in full confidence that our police and the security forces in Iran have not killed anyone with bullets or any other means in these riots.”

That’s in keeping with the past, where government officials have always denied arresting anyone for their political beliefs. Former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who denied the Holocaust ever happened, and foreign minister Javad Zarif have both dismissed reports that Iran had any political prisoners.

The reality is that the regime used brutal crackdown and terror tactics to stop the protests. At least 100 of the 500 killed were young women and girls. Some had been beaten to death. Then there are cases of hundreds of women who were blinded after being shot in the eyes by shotgun pellets. Leaked internal documents reveal details of how members of the Revolutionary Guards raped female protesters in prison.

What makes this movement different is the political unity shown by Iranians inside the country and those in the diaspora. In February, a group of prominent Iranian dissident figures, joined together in an alliance against the regime. The group, which calls itself the Alliance for Democracy and Freedom in Iran, which announced its existence at Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security, includes exiled Prince Reza Pahlavi, Nobel peace prize laureate Shirin Ebadi and Canada-based activist Hamed Esmaeilion, actress and activist Nazanin Boniadi and Secretary General of Komala Iranian Kurdish party Abdullah Mohtadi and myself.

Earlier this month, we released a “Charter of Solidarity and Alliance for Freedom” that sets out the foundations for political representation of the protesters in Iran and gain support for isolating the Islamic Republic.

The charter notes the isolation of the Islamic government internationally is a first and necessary step for a democratic change. The charter calls for international pressure on the Islamic Republic

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The revolution is going strong and our voice cannot be silenced.

to halt all death sentences and to immediately release all political prisoners without condition. Furthermore, the charter seeks expulsion of the regime’s ambassadors from democratic countries.

The charter also calls for “the formation of a council for the transition of power, and the means by which power is transferred to a secular, democratic government”.

More than anything, the alliance and its charter represent the political maturity of the Iranian opposition joining together after more than four decades of exile. Such unity is needed now more than ever.

Attacks with toxic substances in over 50 schools across Iran have poisoned more than 1,000 schoolgirls. Students experienced nausea, numbness in their limbs, difficulty breathing, and heart palpitations. The world has seen videos of young girls gasping for breath. In this climate of fear, girls are not attending school any longer. Yet Iran’s interior minister blames the symptoms of girls suffering from mass hysteria. And he blamed the foreign media for causing alarm.

Human rights groups suspect that extremist elements of the Islamic Republic of Iran are behind it. These are the groups that have official approval to act as enforcers. Some in the Islamic Republic believe that a woman’s place is at home, invisible and docile. But I suspect that the real motive behind the poisoning is to instill fear and force girls, many of whom participated in the mass protests, to stay at home and not attend school. Many Iranians believe the chemical attacks are punishment for the role young women played in leading the protests against the Islamic Republic.

Is it hysteria? Even supreme leader Ali Khamenei admitted that these attacks were organized and he called for the perpetrators to be punished. But we Iranians know

better. A few years ago, there were a series of acid attacks on women in the city of Isfahan. To this day, no one has been arrested or punished.

That’s why the United Nations and the West must act. Removing the Islamic Republic from the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) was the right step to take. Yet, before patting ourselves on the back let us think of this move as an initial step and we need more from the UN, the European Union and other democratic countries. Investigators should be dispatched to determine the chemical compounds used. The Islamic

Republic’s history of hiding the truth makes an independent third-party investigation into the poisoning attacks absolutely critical.

While the Islamic Republic continues to undermine women’s rights, the resilience of women in Iran will not fade. We will not give up. The revolution is going strong and our voice cannot be silenced.

After the protests in Iran, many Western female politicians cut a piece of their hair in solidarity with Iranian protesters. But we don’t need western leaders to cut off their hair. We need the West to cut off its ties with the regime.

141 Weltzeit 2023
Illustration by Zaha Rahimzadeh zaha_rahimzadeh

Social media vs. state propaganda

The visibility of women in Iran is not only a threat to the so-called morality police. Rather, it is a threat to the entire apparatus of power: to the system of the Islamic Republic, the pillars of which the people of Iran now have shaken, above all the women, since the death of the young Kurdish woman Jina Mahsa Amini. Six months have passed since the people of Iran began to take to the streets with courage and determination, nationwide and united as rarely before. Against a theocratic system, against the systematic oppression of women, for freedom, democracy and human rights. In short, for regime change.

People in Iran are paying a high price for this, they are paying with their lives for taking part in the protests, they are risking their lives when they film the brutal actions of the Revolutionary Guards against peaceful protesters, and they are risking many years of imprisonment and torture when they report on them as journalists. Niloofar Hamedi and Elaheh Mohamadi were the first media professionals to report about the circumstances of Jina Mahsa Amini’s death and her funeral. Both were arrested, held incommunicado, convicted of espionage, and locked away in prison. The court sentenced them because of “propaganda against the system and conspiracy against national security”.

These offenses can be punished even with a death sentence in Iran.

Journalist Ali Pourtabatabei was arrested after he reported on the mysterious wave of poison attacks on Iranian schoolgirls. More than 70 journalists have been arrested since the start of the protests. About half of them have since been “released” on bail and are awaiting trial.

According to the Iranian Human Rights Activists News Agency (HRANA), the protests have so far covered 164 cities and 144 universities. The regime responds with brutal violence: A reported 525 demonstrators have been killed by Revolutionary Guards and security forces, including more than 70 children. An estimated 20,000 demonstrators are in prison, where they are subjected to physical and psychological torture, including rape, mainly against girls and women, but also against young men.

Four young people have so far been sentenced to death and executed after show trials without fair justice or access to lawyers. Another hundred face the death penalty.

Struggle for media sovereignty

In November 2022, a leaked audio file from the hacktivist group Black Reward made it clear that the protests, which have

In the minds of the people, the system has already fallen.
Text Yalda Zarbakhch, Head of DW Farsi Service
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Protestors in Iran are often left with only one weapon: their cell phones.

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now triggered something like a revolutionary process, are also perceived by the power elite and the Revolutionary Guards as a serious existential threat. One key element emerges from the conversation between a senior Revolutionary Guard official and media representatives close to the regime: They admit to having failed on the level of media warfare. The Islamic Republic is very keen to spread its propaganda, including to the West, through censorship, disinformation and control of the state media.

The protestors in Iran, who are facing highly militarized forces, are left with only one weapon: their cell phones. Despite all technical blockades, the regime has not been able to stop images and videos of the protests and arrests reaching the outside world with remarkable success. People in Iran are risking their lives to make these images seen. It is essential for their survival that the world public continues to watch and that the reporting does not stop. This is how videos like that of a young mother reach us, recording from her car how security forces shoot at demonstrators and the camera capturing her own death in the next second. Shot in front of her seven-year-old child.

The struggle for sovereignty in the media war, as the Revolutionary Guards call it, is something we in the West should always keep in mind when we receive reports from Iranian state news agencies. They must be put into perspective and context; this is the only way to avoid falling into propaganda traps.

The impression that the protests have died down is deceptive. Demonstrations are still taking place in the Kurdish regions and Baluchistan. In other parts of the country, the protest has shifted away from the streets for the time being. Rather, the movement is preparing for a marathon: It is forming underground. It finds its way into everyday life in the form of civil disobedience. In many places women with open hair are now part of the urban landscape despite the considerable risk of arrest. Even on the anniversary of the Islamic Republic on February 11, this year the government was only able to (forcibly) mobilize a few thousand people for the usual parades. In contrast, thousands of people again took to the streets in many cities a few days later to mark the 40th day of protests following the execution of protesters Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Seyed Mohammad Hosseini.

The revolutionary process is still underway and forming for the next phase. In the minds of the people, the system has already fallen.

144 IRAN
© Eric Lafforgue / Art in All of Us / Corbis via Getty Images

The power of words

Using books to fight for freedom of speech

Forough. This is the name of the Iranian bookstore in Cologne that publishes and sells Persian exile literature. Literature that is banned in Iran or can only be published in censored form.

“We are campaigning for a free, democratic and secular Iran, and we are doing this with the weapon of books,” says owner Anahita Redisiu, “books that enlighten, that explore and that are uncensored.”

Redisiu’s parents fled Iran with their family in 1986 and founded the publishing bookstore in Germany by coincidence in March 1998 on the International Women’s Day. The publishing house takes its name from the Iranian poet Forough Farrokhzad, who died in 1967 and whose works were partially banned under the Islamic regime.

© private 145 Weltzeit 2023

Forough’s target audience includes anyone who reads in Persian young or old. “For people in Iran, of course, it’s more difficult to get our books; we can’t just send them there, we have to find other ways. Because the program is so broad, there’s actually something for everyone.”

’Tehran Book Fair’ uncensored

There are other Iranian publishers in exile, in Canada, the US, the Netherlands, France and Sweden. At the annual book fair in Tehran, “our books are completely off limits,” Redisiu says. “We have managed to launch a joint ’Tehran Book Fair uncensored’ in exile at the same time. Then we go on tour through various countries and exhibit our books.” Iranian books will be exhibited, but also books in German, French or other languages as well as bilingual works.

Why is it so significant to publish these books? “The important topics make the difference,” Redisiu says. “I should explain first: What is taboo in Iran anyway? Maybe

people immediately imagine the most gruesome book titles. But even a plain novel can be forbidden in Iran. This includes, for example, works by literary figures like Paulo Coelho and Milan Kundera. But also harder topics, like criticism of religion, criticism of society. Criticism is actually the wrong term, it’s about freedom, it’s about thinking freely, researching freely and that’s a thorn in the Iranian regime’s side.”

Supporting the protests in Iran

Since the protests in Iran began in September 2022, Forough has received increased attention in Iran itself and also in Germany. “Through social media, we support the revolution by postings, we share information, in German and Persian.”

On the ground in Cologne, Redisiu says, “there is great support: through demonstrations, solidarity concerts, information evenings and readings. I can consider myself very lucky that I grew up with freedom of expression

and freedom of religion. My parents fled Iran so that we children could wear what we wanted, eat what we wanted, say what we wanted. Unfortunately, this cannot be taken for granted and I wish this for all people of this world and of course also for people who are closer to me because of the culture of my parents. I’m willing to deal with that every day and I’m grateful that I get to do that, I’m honored.”

Born in Iran in 1984, Redisiu has never been back there since fleeing the country with her parents as a child. Protesting, she says, is not without danger for people of Iranian descent, even in Germany. “You get attacked here too, you get kidnapped here too, you can get killed here too. That seems illogical to many, but unfortunately it’s the case.” There have been repeated threats on social media when a new publication by a particular author was promoted, such as “We’ll blow up your store.” The selling of books can become a life-threatening job even in exile when you fight for freedom of speech in Iran.

We are campaigning for a free, democratic and secular Iran, and we are doing this with the weapon of books.
146 IRAN
Anahita Redisiu with her parents.


Raif Badawi

Saudi human rights activist, writer and blogger Raif Badawi, was the first laureate of the DW Freedom of Speech Award in 2015. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and 1,000 lashes in Saudi Arabia for allegedly insulting Islam on his online forum. He was subjected to 50 lashes in 2015 with the rest suspended following international outcry. He was released after serving his full prison sentence, but is now barred from leaving the country for another 10 years. The travel ban means that he still cannot see his family, who currently live in Canada for their own safety.

DW presents the Freedom of Speech Award (FoSA) every year to a person or an initiative that has made an outstanding contribution to civil liberties, in particular freedom of the press and freedom of expression.

© private
147 Weltzeit 2023


years of DW: An ally in the fight for press freedom

Propaganda against the state, tax evasion, espionage, separatism, membership in a terrorist organization, disclosure of state secrets, spreading false news, embezzlement of state funds: What do these charges have in common?

They are intended to silence independent journalists around the world. Journalists who have simply done their job, who have researched unwelcome topics and published critical articles. These are just a few examples of offenses that authorities accuse media professionals of, whether in China, Russia or Egypt.

As absurd as the accusations sound in this context, they have serious consequences for those affected. In unfair trials, courts sentence media workers to long prison sentences, which they must serve, sometimes under life-threatening conditions. The current situation is particularly alarming: Reporters Without Borders counts almost 540 media professionals (as of February 2023) who are

in prison for their work, more than ever before. This record number shows that authoritarian regimes are increasingly resorting to simply locking up journalists they do not like.

But the enemies of press freedom work with many methods. They monitor, harass, threaten, insult and kill media workers who critically hold them to account. Deutsche Welle journalists are also experiencing what such restrictions can mean in their daily work. In some countries, the authorities arrested employees of the broadcaster. In Iraq earlier this year, a presenter popular with the channel’s Arabic-speaking audience and his team canceled a production after receiving threats. Deutsche Welle employees had to leave the country for security reasons. In Iran, too, employees and their families have been threatened for years. Since the protests began, threats against members of the Farsi editorial team have intensified. In Russia, the Foreign Ministry

Text Christian Mihr, Managing Director, Reporters Without Borders Germany
Authoritarian regimes are increasingly resorting to simply locking up journalists they do not like.
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Basilio Sepe

ordered the closure of the correspondent’s office in Moscow.

Governments also repeatedly try to censor Deutsche Welle’s content. In Belarus, for example, the Ministry of the Interior classified all of the station’s content as “extremist” and blocked its websites in all languages. In Turkey, too, the relevant authority blocked the medium’s online content. In Russia, the government banned Deutsche Welle from broadcasting and the regulatory authority blocked the website.

These incidents and developments are painful for media like Deutsche Welle, but especially for the people in the affected countries, who have little access to independent information as a result. But there are methods to defy censorship instead of resigning. Deutsche Welle is also fighting back and is thus an ally of Reporters Without Borders and of countless courageous independent journalists in the fight for press freedom. For example, in

countries where press freedom is restricted, it is increasingly relying on digital platforms such as social media.

As part of the #CollateralFreedom project, Reporters Without Borders has set up access via a so-called proxy server to DW’s Russian-language news website which the Kremlin has blocked in Russia since March last year. In addition to the various options offered by DW to circumvent censorship, Reporters Without Borders offers further support via its own proxy. A copy, or mirror, of the website (”mirror site”) is created there. The Russian government could only block this mirror site if it blocked the entire cloud server. But this would also affect a number of business enterprises that rely on the services of the same providers. Most governments shy away from such a large economic and political “collateral damage” of their internet censorship.

Deutsche Welle’s importance for press freedom is also evident in other ways:

We will resist all attacks on press freedom.
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Noble Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa has been leading the
struggle to safeguard freedom of expression.

In 32 languages, the station’s research reaches audiences worldwide. In 32 languages, the station reports on the imprisonment of Hong Kong publisher Jimmy Lai, the murder of critical journalist Martinez Zogo in Cameroon or the increasing pressure against media in Algeria. In 32 languages, the station makes restrictions on press freedom visible around the world.

Perhaps in these difficult times, it is precisely these aspects that we should focus on. Journalists and the media are finding ways to defy the restrictions on press freedom and continue to report. “We will resist all attacks on press freedom. They are trying to scare us, but don’t be afraid. Because if you don’t exercise your rights, you will lose them,” says journalist Maria Ressa, who knows what she’s talking about: since 2018, the Philippine state has opened 23 cases against her and her colleagues at the independent news site Rappler. Ressa, for example, faces up to seven years in prison for alleged cyber

defamation. It takes great courage to keep fighting. At the end of 2021, she and Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts. The Norwegian Nobel Committee said at the time that both were representative of all journalists who stood up for freedom of the press and freedom of expression “in a world in which the conditions for democracy and freedom of the press are deteriorating more and more.”

The Nobel Peace Prize was thus also awarded on behalf of the courageous journalists at Deutsche Welle, who conduct research under difficult conditions around the world. On the broadcaster’s 70th anniversary, Reporters Without Borders wishes the staff all the best and continued strength in their work. Like Maria Ressa, the organization is convinced: “We will resist all attacks on press freedom.” To this end, Reporters Without Borders stands by Deutsche Welle with its support.

is a journalist, human rights activist and an expert on international media policy. Mihr has been the director of Reporters Without Borders Germany since 2012. @cmihr

Christian Mihr
© picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Uncredited
Dmitry Muratov, editor-in-chief of the influential Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, left, and Sergei Sokolov, his deputy, await their trial in Moscow.

Weaponizing the law to silence journalists

It has never been a more dangerous time to be a journalist. In 2022, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) documented 67 killings of journalists and media workers, with more than half those deaths taking place outside of war zones. Most of these journalists were murdered in direct reprisal for their reporting. Across the world, a record 363 journalists were in jail: the highest number ever recorded by CPJ in our 30 years of gathering such data. With social unrest from Peru to China and protests from Germany to the United States, journalists were threatened with violence and their equipment destroyed. Online, reporters were harassed, with women in particular facing a deluge of vile abuse, include threats of death and rape.

Against this backdrop, another disturbing trend was emerging under the radar, one

Text Jodie Ginsberg © picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Moises Castillo
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Journalist José Rubén Zamora on his way to court in Guatemala.

just as potent as the violence used to silence reporters: the abuse of law.

Known as “lawfare”, this misuse of the law typically involves charges not directly related to journalism and is an increasingly common tool among corrupt and authoritarian regimes keen to silence journalists. Instead of being targeted for the words published or spoken, journalists, publishers and editors are pursued on supposedly unrelated charges, such as financial wrongdoing.

And while press freedom advocates have grown used to the misuse of national security laws to go after journalists, allegations of financial misdeeds are more difficult and complicated to challenge because such allegations ostensibly bear no link to the material being published. They are thus an effective means for repressive governments to mask penalties against critical reporting.

Financial charges brought against the press are an especially insidious tactic, designed to muddy the waters and sow confusion and doubt among the broader public about a journalist’s honesty. Governments seeking to silence independent reporting frequently use a strategy of smears suggesting journalists are akin to criminals: if the journalist is charged with a financial crime, this “proves” they are untrustworthy.

As Maria Ressa, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate and founder of Philippines news outlet Rappler told NPR: “these narratives of journalist-equals-criminal… set the stage for the filing of legal charges against us.” Ressa, for years subject to an orchestrated disinformation campaign against her and her organization, was charged in November 2018 with tax evasion and failure to file tax returns. Although a court acquitted Ressa and Rappler of four

of the five charges in 2023, a number of other cases against her remain all of which she and media freedom groups around the world believe to be politically motivated.

While Ressa’s case is among the best known, it is far from being unique. Such tactics are currently being deployed against a number of individuals and media outlets across the globe. In August 2022, José Rubén Zamora was arrested on accusations of money-laundering, blackmail and influence peddling. The 66-year-old journalist and editor, founder of Guatemalan El Periódico newspaper, has faced more than three decades of harassment, kidnapping and death threats, for his work detailing corruption at the highest levels of government. In 1995, Zamora’s car was driven off the road by two men threatening to kill him. In 2003, he and his family were held hostage at gunpoint.

But this latest, legal threat is perhaps the most insidious of all, according to Rubén Zamora’s son, José Zamora. He told CPJ: “Even though we have been prepared for an assassination, which is terrible, but it’s something that we are constantly aware of and prepared for. This is completely different, because an assassination at least it gives you certainty.”

Thousands of miles away in Hong Kong, 75-year-old media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, founder of Apple Daily, is also in jail. Lai, a dual Hong Kong and British national, has been convicted on various charges, including fraud. He is currently awaiting trial on national security charges for which he faces life imprisonment.

363 Highest number in


Such judicial harassment of journalists affects not just the individual. It is designed to shutter organizations themselves. El Periódico was forced to halt print publication in December 2022 after the government withdrew advertising and allegedly pressured other advertisers to do the same. Apple Daily, which operated

Journalists in jail
Killings in 2022 67 © picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS /
Moises Castillo

from 1995 to 2021 and was among Hong Kong’s best-selling Chinese language newspapers, was forced to close after authorities froze the company’s assets. Rappler continues to operate despite a shutdown order from the Philippines’ Securities and Exchange Commission, which said in 2022 it had found Rappler’s funding model to be “unconstitutional”.

Others weaponize the law or threaten to use it by tying journalists up in expensive litigation. Known as SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), these are abusive lawsuits filed by powerful officials, businesspeople, or corporations against individuals, including critical journalists or news outlets, to restrict or censor critical reporting. SLAPPS are characterized by long and costly legal proceedings that aim to deter journalists from pursuing their reporting.

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) reported in November 2022 that journalists and media outlets in its global network were battling a record 41 lawsuits filed by the subjects of their investigations. At a time when news outlets are under increasing financial pressure, such lawsuits are simply an unbearable burden for many.

“Getting sued is a Davidand-Goliath scenario for most journalists,” OCCRP said in its announcement of a new fund to help media outlets defend against SLAPPS. “The wealthy, powerful, and corrupt have endless pots of money, amounts of time, and access to lawyers specifically trained in targeting journalists to try to cripple and stifle them. OCCRP partner journalists, on the other hand, are typically from small, scrappy nonprofit outlets who have limited resources and must take valuable time away from their work to focus on their defense, while paying for expensive attorneys and court costs.”

Stevan Dojčinović, the editor in chief of KRIK, a Serbian media outlet that focuses on crime and corruption and is battling 11 lawsuits said he was facing more SLAPP lawsuits than he had reporters. The costs are also significant. In 2021, the total value of actions against KRIK amounted to €765,000 and one lawsuit demanded jail time for the journalist. The list of those suing KRIK’s journalists and editors included a man charged with drug production, the head of the state security BIA agency, police chiefs, tycoons close to the government, people on Interpol wanted lists, a friend of President Aleksandar Vučić, a pro-government tabloid’s publisher and an international corporation.

Although journalists typically win frivolous lawsuits in jurisdictions with effective rule of law, the mental and financial burden of such suits typically makes any victory a pyrrhic one. Now journalists,

@jodieginsberg @pressfreedom

media organizations and civil society groups are fighting back. OCCRP has launched the Reporters Shield a legal defense fund to protect news organizations from vharassing lawsuits, with an initial $9 million contribution from USAID.

Other organizations — including CPJ are working to connect more reporters and news organizations to a wide array of legal support and expertise. The Legal Network for Journalists at Risk, a network of 15 organizations working on media freedom and legal support issues, aims to coordinate various types of support to help give those in need of assistance a single way to obtain help. An array of legal guides is meant to help journalists steer clear of legal troubles, where possible.

Like journalism, the law is a vital tool in the defense of democracy. Its abuse makes uncomfortable truths illegal and in the process diminishes us all.

Like journalism, the law is a vital tool in the defense of democracy.
Jodie Ginsberg
is the president of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), an independent nonprofit organization that works to safeguard press freedom worldwide.
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Journalists gather outside a court in protest against the detention of journalist José Rubén Zamora.

Viral != but irrelevant ();

It’s a story that shows it all. The ongoing communications revolution and the novel power of the spectacle. One morning, early February 2020, somewhere on a road near Skukuza, a camp in Kruger National Park, South Africa’s largest game reserve. Kurt Schultz, who has been running safaris for decades, is out with his camera that morning. He comes across a group of excited baboons. Nothing unusual, really. But then he sees that the baboons have dragged a still-living lion cub up the tree, that they are lousing it, jumping with it from branch to branch. Schultz snaps a few pictures and takes a few video snippets. And then it all goes online. What follows is a hype and liking miracle that breaks all records. From the Washington Post to Der Spiegel, from the Times of India to the Jarkata Post everyone reports as if on a secret signal, at lightning speed. The photos are shared on social networks, commented on Twitter, discussed in internet forums. And all over the world people are

Text Bernhard Pörksen
© oatawa / Veronica / Adobe Stock Photo [M]

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wondering: Can the baby lion survive? What do experts say about the curious adoption? And does anyone know what happened next?

What is happening here reveals two things. On the one hand, this example shows the predictable fascination success of so-called inter-species love stories. These are cuddly stories that involve different animal species. Such stories perform wonderfully, to use the jargon of social media consultants, they are massively clicked and shared. On the other hand, the example of such a spectacle reveals the shift in our information architecture.

Audience interests assert themselves with a completely different urgency and directness under the current media conditions and thus determine the agenda of topics. It is a cybernetics of excitement of its own, a heating up of the public world driven by feedback loops and signal flashes that is revealed here. And it is a business model that could change what we call the public sphere. Public that meant, one can diagnose without false nostalgia, in the medium of a classical, a printed newspaper: in bundled form. One was inevitably confronted with what one

perhaps did not want to see. Those who were not interested in business or foreign countries had to ignore the business section or the corresponding articles, at least consciously or semi-consciously. Those who were bored by the features section of their newspaper could dispose of it, but were still informed about the existence of a special canon of topics or the current controversy among writers. This was the gentle paternalism of the medium, volatile in terms of democratic theory: a broadcaster who determined the bundle of topics and information in his medium and on his channel, who proclaimed the general agenda. In the digital age, this principle of journalistic paternalism (“We show readers what we think is important!”) has entered into

animated by freely circulating offers, can construct his own world of information. And the journalistic domination of the information and news media is broken. Trash and serious news from the traditional media compete in an unbundled, isolated form in direct immediacy on the platforms of the digital universe.

a dramatic, socially still misunderstood battle with the principle of popularity (“We deliver what pleases!”). It is a popularity controlled by personal interests, which permanently reinforces itself, in extreme cases independent of any relevance. Now the recipient,

What are the deeper causes for the dominance of hypes and spectacle stories? The answer is that it is now possible to offer what appeals precisely and in real time, because today it is possible to measure what appeals and fascinates. As the American publicist John Battelle once put it, the entire network is from the point of view of a gradually forming, globally operating entertainment industry a gigantic pool of fine-grained, exploitable interests. Everything that is searched for, commented on and shared can be understood, according to Battelle’s central idea, as information about needs, desires and interests that can be used to serve them as directly as possible. “This information,” he writes, “stands in aggregate form as a placeholder for the intentions of all humanity a vast database of wants, desires, needs, and preferences that can be discovered, tracked, archived, traced, and explored in every direction. Such a monstrosity has not existed in the history of culture to date, and yet exponential growth is all but guaranteed from now on. This tool allows us to learn extraordinary things about ourselves and our culture. At the same time, it carries the risk of misusing that information in equally extraordinary ways.”

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It’s not necessary to sweepingly speak of a monstrosity, as Battelle does, but it’s definitely true that today it’s possible to measure with unprecedented immediacy and accuracy what fascinates, which headlines are clicked, which articles are read to which paragraph, and how often individual teasers and texts are shared and commented on, and in what ways the entire perceptual and life cycle of a single story unfolds. Live monitoring of reception movements makes it possible to determine and test which riddle headlines (“... and you won’t believe what happened next ...”), which stimulus vocabulary (“sex, mystery, drama”) and which property words (“inconceivable, crazy, grotesque”) work particularly well, which images, GIFs and videos capture attention and generate likes on Facebook.

And indeed, everything has become measurable. Companies such as Chartbeat, Spike, Crowdtangle, Linkpulse and 10,000 Flies summarize user reactions in pulsating, nervously vibrating statistics more precisely and directly than any traditional circulation or ratings analysis and make their services available to media companies around the world. They point out videos and posts that are exploding virally in one part of the world and might be worth picking up. They create article rankings and determine, with the indisputable authority of click numbers, the intensity with which even half-true news, rumors, or simply satirical shenanigans are disseminated. And they make it clear with their popularity scales that most people are more interested in some scary-looking giant squid in a Japanese dock or some funny selfie video than in the conflicts in the Middle East or Afghanistan.

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In short, it is a numbers revolution in the form of real-time ratings and precisely analyzed reception movements that is shaking up the public sphere and has spawned its own emotion and excitement industry. This industry, often with nonsense content and much less often with serious information, engages in a kind of attention poker in front of a global audience, driven by the goal of landing the next viral hit with the aim to ultimately convert the measured reach into advertising revenues.

Of course, one can rightly point out that even traditional journalism is not entirely unfamiliar with quota pressure and the focus on meaningless entertainment, fictitious excitement and circulation figures. That’s true, certainly. You only have to read the so-called

yellow and gossip press that is available at every newsstand. But that is not the point. Rather, what is decisive is the journalistic collateral damage of an organizational form of the public sphere that is oriented to the principle of total popularity and the measurement of the success of information particles.

On the one hand, it becomes clear that a politically informed public cannot come into being in this way. For the political public needs relevance in the form of a setting, an axiom. It thrives on the effort to present a broad picture and a totality of topics, which must fear a radical unbundling of content in the information streams of the large platforms, if only for idealistic reasons. It feeds on the pathos

It is a popularity controlled by personal interests, which permanently reinforces itself, in extreme cases independent of any relevance.

of self-confidently asserted importance and a perhaps only intuitively sensed, but not necessarily empirically supported evidence, which does not allow itself to be further impressed by popularity values. But it is precisely this public that, in the struggle for the naturally scarce attention, finds itself in a direct com petitive relationship with the players of a modern excitement industry, who, in terms of the history of ideas, have no clue about journalistic responsibility. On the other hand, the sole orientation towards popularity values forces, for purely economic reasons, to use all means to make the single story a

Bernhard Pörksen

is professor of media studies at the University of Tübingen, Germany. His new book, Digital Fever: Taming the Big Business of Disinformation (Palgrave Macmillan) is out now.

mono-topic and to constantly advertise it with dramas, tragedies, great emotions and striking cliffhangers.

and this danger is inherent in the excesses of dramatization, the mechanisms of data-driven tabloidization, and the immediate fusion of audience observation and publication events the result is a gradual division of the internet public into two parts: the silent, unobserved, lonely internet emerges, which hardly anyone knows about an infinite sphere of undiscovered ideas and notions, forgotten postings, barely clicked videos. And there is the network of calculated excitement and emotionally infectious stories centered around popularity scales and hit lists, about

which everyone is suddenly talking because universal key stimuli of interest are systematically and powerfully amplified.

So are the numbers and measuring instruments that reveal what people are actually interested in and fascinated by somehow evil? Certainly not. Are they innocent? Not even that, if only because ranking thinking has its own authority in a culture fascinated by measurability and quantification, as American media sociologist Caitlin Petre demonstrates in her study

The Social Life of Metrics. Quota successes, she shows, inevitably have a power of their own. So, the question is whether it is possible to use the mechanisms of total optimization for serious journalism as well, without ending up either as another shrill medium or as a complete loser in the competition for reach. The answer remains open.

A final thought. In the USA due to the restructuring of

the advertising markets in the direction of a few digital giants so-called news deserts have emerged in recent years, public spaces in which there are no longer any journalistic offerings or independent reporting at all. If this is the case, as can be shown empirically, then the corruption in a local community increases, then the PR specialists and the populists who have turned the division of society into a business model and profit from the progressive overheating of the communications climate gain momentum. It becomes obvious what happens when the common ground of a shared basis of information and facts crumbles. Even globally circulating pictures of cute little lion cubs being dragged up a tree by baboons somewhere in Africa can no longer hide this fact: The disappearance of independent, broadly and inclusively informative journalism is a loss that really changes everything.

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Are the numbers and measuring instruments that reveal what people are actually interested in and fascinated by somehow evil?

70 years of DW: Challenging Censorship

In 2022, two new states joined the list of those blocking the DW website dw.com namely Russia and Turkey.

DW'S website has been completely censored in the digital space by Russian authorities since March 4, 2022. Similarly, Turkey began blocking DW internet services on July 1, 2022. This puts them in a league with China, Iran and Belarus, which have been censoring DW content for far longer.

DW facing old and new censorship methods

Digital censorship on the internet is just the modern version of using technological measures to massively obstruct the dissemination of information by DW: When DW began broadcasting its Russian-language radio program via shortwave in

1962 just nine years after it was founded in 1953 Soviet electronic jammers immediately went to work. This jamming was a constant challenge for the technology department and required close collaboration between editorial and technical staff to outsmart the censorship. For example, since the Soviet jamming generators often needed two to three minutes to adjust to the frequency of the DW radio program, the editorial staff presented the first few minutes of each news broadcast in the form of headlines, enabling them to get as much information out as possible before the interference hit.

Soviet jamming was at its strongest during events such as the Prague Spring and in the 1980s. Then, due to the political and economic decline

of the Soviet Union, Moscow gradually gave up jamming Western radio stations from the summer of 1987. Their interference with DW’s Russian-language radio program ended on November 30, 1988.

Fast forward to February 2022

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022 signified an historical turning point. Waging an illegal and unjustified war against Ukraine, the Moscow leadership wanted to silence any independent reporting on the events by blocking DW and other media websites and social platforms. The Kremlin then used the sanctions imposed by the EU against Russian state media RT/Russia Today and Sputnik on March 2, 2022, as a pretext.

Text Ingo Mannteufel, DW Head of IT and Cybersecurity
Victor Kruchinin/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Moscow in a rally to protest against the tightening state control over the internet in Russia.

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Two days later, dw.com was censored. The real reason for the censorship was that the Kremlin seeks to fully control the propaganda narrative among the Russian people with its state propaganda outlets on TV, radio and on the internet.

The situation is quite similar for Turkey, where the DW website was blocked by the government under the pretext of a license requirement that would have given the Turkish state more openings to censor DW content.

Censorship shaking up media usage

There should be no illusions about the effects of internet censorship. People in countries like Turkey or Russia who want to obtain information from DW must now use censorship circumvention tools to do so. This new technical challenge for users as well as their changing information needs is shaking up regular media usage, especially if the censorship is very comprehensive, as in the case of Russia. Accordingly, the blocking of dw.com and western social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram initially meant a severe blow to DW Russian and a significant loss of reach in Russia, but DW and many other Russian-speaking media outlets were able to cushion this blow.

Diversification strategy key to censorship circumvention

Today’s key success factors to censorship circumvention are similar to those that worked during the Cold War: solid preparation and excellent cooperation between DW Programming and our directorate responsible for technology.

Russian people have stood up in opposition to internet censorship.

While the Kremlin’s censorship measures were quite effective against the DW website and and even social media platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Russian censorship authority Roskomnadzor has so far not blocked Google, YouTube or Telegram. Therefore, it remains relatively easy for Russianinternet users to continue finding information from DW via the DW Russian Telegram channels. And they can continue accessing DW’s news content via a special Google cache service. In addition, the daily Russianlanguage TV news program, DW Novosti, which has been produced especially for

YouTube since 2014, can still be accessed in Russia without censorship circumvention tools. The situation in Turkey is similar, where DW Turkish also produces a TV News program for YouTube, which can also be reached there without censorship circumvention tools.

With VPNs and Psiphon, users can still access DW

The direct loss of reach in Russia was significant, but plausible indicators in our usage data showed that people in Russia were accessing dw.com using censorship

Simply doing nothing enables the success of censorship and the loss of the users.

circumvention tools as soon as the blockade began. This also coincided with general findings that VPN services have been heavily used in Russia since the start of the major wave of internet censorship in spring 2022.

Other censorship circumvention tools including Psiphon and Tor also play an important part in getting DW content through the blockages to the people in Russia and Turkey. This and other measures helped to keep DW’s loss of reach in check. The goal is to counter internet censorship by winning back old user groups and even tapping into new ones.

The cat-and-mouse game for freedom of information

Unfortunately, it is clear that internet censorship will continue to intensify globally. But and this is an important lesson DW has reacted extremely well to severe blows such as those in Russia and Turkey with a proactive attitude and with joint efforts across the company. Simply doing nothing enables the success of censorship and the loss of the users. After all, it is precisely where DW is censored that we are needed most.

It is clear that internet censorship will continue to intensify globally.
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© Sefa Karacan/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

< The dawning of a new era />

DW went online in 1994 — well before many other media organizations in Germany. We take a look back at the path that took DW from digital pioneer to global information provider.

In the mid-1990s, the internet was an unknown, widely inaccessible place. Computers needed exotic hardware and a modem to even create a connection to this mythical network. The “world wide web” was just a few years old and “Mosaic”, the first browser that could even display websites, had just been launched in 1993. The percentage of Germans who had ever even been “online” was in the single digits. But regardless of how small those beginnings appeared, the development thereafter was dramatic.

As DW designed a plan to put news online, it was truly the dawning of a new era. A three-person team wrote HTML code for the first page by hand. Not only was DW the first public broadcaster in Germany to go online, it was also one step ahead of most of the private broadcasters, too.

On September 1, 1994, dwelle.de went online with articles and pictures delivered by the 30 editorial departments and manually to each page. Imagine it like this: the night shift saved their work to discs, packed those in small plastic bags that

were then hung on the door handle of the online department, so that they could be put on the web the next morning. Languages like Amharic, which didn’t have any online fonts available, were posted with the help of a so-called gif-generator. Each letter was a tiny photo. And because DW was first and foremost a radio broadcaster back then, it started offering audio content as well. The first livestream for DW-TV followed in 1996. DW tried everything out that was technically possible, even when the bandwidth wasn’t quite ready yet.

In the year 2000, Guido Baumhauer, who became DW’s Managing Director of Distribution, Marketing and Technology in 2006, started expanding the internet page into a multimedia platform with 30 languages: dw-world.de. Over time, the dw.com URL was acquired, the website underwent a massive facelift and the work of the editorial department changed drastically. Now, the content produced primarily for radio and TV wasn’t the only thing being placed online.

A threeperson team wrote HTML code for the first page by hand.

Quite the contrary: An online editorial department started creating and producing content specifically for digital platforms. And this new content was also delivered to thousands of digital distribution partners worldwide.

In retrospect, says Baumhauer: “Our pioneering work in developing our own website in the 90’s has become part of our DNA today. For a long time, we have been developing content for all the channels of distribution that the internet offers and that’s a lot besides just our own website. As an international provider of information, we try to ensure that more and more content shows up online and reaches people exactly where and when they need it. That includes the major platforms like YouTube, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram and we even include our content on Smart TVs or in-car systems. Something impressive to note: Our more than 4,000 distribution partners worldwide get our content for their own online and social media platforms from our websites for re-distribution in their regions.”

Growth through on demand first

DW has been an established and popular provider of unbiased information for 70 years now. In November 2022, DW broke its previous TikTok record with 135 million views. A contributing factor to this success is, of course, the expertise that enables DW to tailor its content to the very diverse target audiences that are using digital media today.

There has been a lot of progress from the first steps in the “world wide web” up until today but not only for the editorial teams, marketing, sales and distribution of the content. The supporting workforce, the experts behind the curtain, are more important now than ever. They make it possible for DW to share its content in 32 languages in a suitable “digital container”, develop distribution systems and the infrastructure for digital media production and make it possible to analyze the data of millions of users, to ensure that the best possible decisions can be made in the future. DW also has experts who ensure its content is available in markets with limited access to information.

Unbiased, critical journalism is a thorn in the side for authoritarian regimes, who are controlling much of the local media. Especially in these regions, DW and its content must remain available. Along with the jamming of radio and TV signals, DW is also facing severe internet disruption in China, Iran, Russia and Turkey. That’s why DW is using censorship circumvention solutions like Psiphon, Onion (ToR) and Proton with success. As the Turkish broadcast regulations authority RTÜK blocked dw.com in July of 2022, an online marketing campaign led internet users in Turkey to a link with which they could still access dw.com content. DW is one of the news organizations leading the fight against censorship, taking a stance to ensure that unbiased journalism remains unrestricted and available. Just like 29 years ago with the launch of DW’s first website.

<The dawning of a era/>

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DW has experts who ensure its content is available in markets with limited access to information.

AI and i <3


The number of events with a global impact happening on any given Tuesday (see next page) is already ripe for a conspiracy theory and here’s one more: on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, OpenAI, an Artificial Intelligence research and development company based in San Francisco, launched “ChatGPT”.

The worldwide AI community had of course been buzzing with anticipation fueled mainly by news-ticker-worthy daily snippets throughout the year about major advancements in “Generative AI” applications. However, many experts had rather sober expectations regarding yet another chatbot promising “conversational” capabilities.

AI is changing the global media landscape. Text Wilfried Runde, DW Head of Research and Cooperation Projects
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© Image generated by AI Midjourney based on a prompt from Tilman Wagner.

Not any more after the launch of ChatGPT. Early users, tech pundits and soon after mainstream media alike gasped for words like “revolution”, “gamechanger”, “sensation” because after numerous promises AI for the first time seemed to “understand”, to “respond” and be capable of producing complex texts (even scientific studies or programming code) of good quality. A remarkable development, as this technology will have a profound impact on businesses globally and, in particular for those dealing with content production, including journalism. For those interacting with ChatGPT every day — like me — the initial amazement still prevails, looking at the impressive range of themes and topics covered.

And despite well-founded criticism, the awareness of weaknesses and potential dangers, faults and inaccuracies of the chatbot, the results are still mostly stunning and at a quality level that urges every media company to act fast and take the strategic, legal and ethical decisions in order to understand, analyze and prepare for the constructive use of this new generation of AI technology.

Let me try to prove my point: While this article up until now was written without AI support this will now change quickly. Let’s start with the bluntest approach possible: Have ChatGPT write the full article I am supposed to provide. This initially requires nothing more than a textual input we now call a “prompt”, here already introducing a specific DW angle:

“Article draft of 1,000 characters explaining the basics about ChatGPT and generative AI (without technical jargon) and their impact on journalism and journalists now and in three to five years with a particular focus on AI nabling content in multiple languages.”

It takes roughly 15 seconds for a first draft.

ChatGPT is a type of artificial intelligence (AI) technology known as a generative language model. It is trained on a massive dataset of text and can generate new text that is similar in style and content to the text it was trained on. This makes it well-suited for tasks such as text generation, language translation, and text summarization.

One of the most significant impacts of generative AI, such as ChatGPT, on journalism is the ability to quickly produce high-quality content in multiple languages. This can help news organizations reach a wider audience and provide more comprehensive coverage of events happening around the world. Additionally, AI-generated content can also be used to supplement or augment the work of human journalists, allowing them to focus on more in-depth reporting and analysis.

Furthermore, AI-generated content can be used to support multilingual newsrooms and allow journalists to quickly produce translations and summaries of articles written in languages they are not proficient in, which will enable them to cover more international stories.

Will the future of journalism lead to AI interviews?

© Images generated by AI Midjourney based on a prompt from Tilman Wagner.

OK? Good enough? Something to work on? I decided to use an additional prompt for a more ’provocative’ angle.

“Add two paragraphs on what journalists should do to distinguish their writing and other journalistic content production from AI generated content in order to justify a future for humans in journalism” 10 seconds later:

Journalists can distinguish their writing and other journalistic content production from AI-generated content by focusing on elements that are difficult for AI to replicate, such as creativity, critical thinking, and the ability to make connections between seemingly unrelated events. For example, human journalists can bring their own perspective and voice to a story, which can add depth and nuance that is difficult for AI to replicate. Additionally, human journalists have the ability to conduct in-depth research, interview sources, and gather information from a variety of sources, which can help to provide a more complete and accurate picture of a story.

Another way that journalists can distinguish their work from AI-generated content is by focusing on the human side of the story. This can include highlighting the impact of events on individuals, exploring the emotions and motivations of those involved, and providing context and background information that can help readers understand the broader implications of a story. It’s also important for journalists to be transparent when using AI tools and generated content, by explaining the process and the source of the AI-generated content, so that readers can make informed decisions about the reliability and trustworthiness of the information they are consuming.

Alright, now I have quite some input to edit and craft the final version according to the given requirements, add more information and adapt to my style of writing in order to deliver the article. However, why not push the envelope and try to capture this important topic in an interview with ChatGPT itself ?

Some significant events in world history that took place on a Tuesday

October 29, 1929

Black Tuesday, the stock market crash that marked the beginning of the Great Depression in the United States.

December 7, 1941

The attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese during World War II happened on a Sunday in Hawaii, but because of the time difference, it was still a Tuesday in the United States.

June 6, 1944

D-Day, the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II, began on a Tuesday.

July 20, 1969

Apollo 11, the first manned mission to land on the Moon, landed on a Tuesday.

September 11, 2001

The terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which had a significant impact on the United States and the world, occurred on a Tuesday.

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One of the most significant impacts of generative AI on journalism is the ability to quickly produce highquality content in multiple languages.

prompt \ A poem about Germany’s international public broadcaster

Deutsche Welle, a beacon bright, Radiating news from left to right, A voice for Germany, a voice for all, Sharing stories, great and small.

From Berlin, a hub of global news, Deutsche Welle does not refuse To cover the world, with facts and care, Providing information fair and square.

In times of crisis, in times of peace, Deutsche Welle never cease To keep us informed, and to engage, With news that’s timely, and never rage.

A trusted source, for young and old, Deutsche Welle, we are beholden, To your commitment, to seek the truth, And share it with the world, in your pursuit.

Easy, it even turned out fairly concise and polite:

Good day ChatGPT, thank you for joining us today.

Good day! It’s my pleasure to be here.

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?

I am a language model developed by OpenAI, capable of generating text in a conversational manner. I was trained on a diverse range of internet text and can answer questions, summarize text, and generate creative writing based on prompts given to me.

That sounds amazing. Can you tell us what your primary use cases are?

My primary use cases are conversational AI, customer support, language translation, and content generation. Companies and organizations use me to automate tasks and improve customer experience, while individuals use me for language learning and research.

Prompt given by Tilman Wagner, DW Innovation


Can you tell us about your training process and the data used to train you?

I was trained on a diverse range of internet text, including news articles, websites and books. The training data was pre-processed to remove low-quality text and to ensure that the text was diverse and representative of different perspectives and cultures. The training process involved inputting this text into a deep learning model called a transformer, which was fine-tuned to generate high-quality text based on a given prompt.

How do you ensure that you are not generating biased responses?

Bias in AI models is a complex issue and one that OpenAI takes very seriously. My training data was carefully curated to minimize the likelihood of incorporating biases, but it is not possible to eliminate all biases. Additionally, OpenAI is continually monitoring and analyzing my responses to detect and address any biases that may arise.

What is the future potential impact of ChatGPT on journalism?

In the future, ChatGPT has the potential to transform the way journalism is produced by automating the production of routine and repetitive news content, enabling journalists to focus on more investigative and human-centered storytelling. ChatGPT may also provide new opportunities for collaboration and co-creation with readers and communities, as well as new ways to personalize and tailor news content to individual readers.

Can you tell us about any ethical concerns with the use of language models like yourself?

There are several ethical concerns associated with the use of language models like myself, including the potential for the spread of misinformation, the generation of biased or harmful content, and the impact on employment and privacy. OpenAI is actively working to address these concerns and promote the responsible use of AI technology.

Finally, where do you see the future of language models and conversational AI going in the next 5 to 10 years?

The future of language models and conversational AI is incredibly exciting. I believe that in the next 5 to 10 years, we will see continued improvements in the quality and accuracy of language models, as well as increased adoption across a wider range of industries and applications. Additionally, I think we will see the development of new and innovative use cases for conversational AI, such as personalized healthcare and education.

Conclusion: This is by no means an advertisement for ChatGPT and/or the multiple AI applications (Bing/Sydney by Microsoft, BARD by Google, Luminous by Aleph Alpha…) that have been launched over the past weeks. It is also not disregarding neither the current limitations (always check and verify any AI generated results) nor the huge task to deal with the ethical and societal implications. This is rather a hands-on approach how to use a powerful tool that supports content generation in multiple ways, like research, ideation, outline, structure, line-editing, versioning to name but a few. And: this is just the beginning.

Bias in
models is a complex issue and one that OpenAI takes very seriously.
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Image generated by AI Midjourney based on a prompt from Tilman Wagner.

Press freedom at stake in India

“Are you next?”, I was frequently asked after the BBC offices were raided by income tax authorities in mid-February. The “survey” to investigate financial irregularities at the BBC’s India operations made international headlines. It was also breaking news in India. A spokesman from the ruling BJP lashed out at the BBC describing its coverage of India as “venomous”, “shallow” and “anti-India”. All this happened just weeks after the release of a BBC documentary in the UK questioning Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s role in the 2002 Gujrat riots.

The Indian media is familiar with tax raids which are seen as selective tools of intimidation and harassment. But this was the first time that an international organisation with the stature of the BBC was targeted. Over the past years several Indian publications, online news portals and TV channels have faced investigations. During the height of the pandemic

when the Delta wave brought India to its knees, well known media houses were raided after they reported on the unprecedented high death toll, implying the government’s mismanagement of the crisis. The founders of a TV channel, consistently voted as the “most trusted English news channel in India”, had their offices and their homes searched. The TV channel was one of the few viewed as ’independent”. It was recently bought over by the controversial billionaire Gautam Adani, who has close links within the government. Some of channel’s top anchors and management have left, amid concerns they will no longer be able to air their views freely.

These are not random, isolated incidents. There is a pattern to them. And it is not just the media which is under attack. Those viewed to be critical of authorities be they political opponents, dissidents, think-tanks, human rights groups, independent

Text Amrita Cheema, DW New Delhi Bureau Chief
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Protests and conflict are common as critical voices are being silenced.
Indranil Mukherjee / AFP via Getty Images

Hundreds of reports chronicling decades of violence in the disputed Muslim-majority territory have disappeared from local media archives or been rendered unsearchable.

organizations, or simply regarded as “anti-national” are at of risk of being prosecuted by one of the several official agencies.

However, individual journalists are amongst the most vulnerable. Dozens have been arrested in recent years for alleged “unlawful” activities, “terrorism” and even slapped with colonial-era charges such as “sedition”. And sometimes for a mere tweet or a Facebook post. Some of the accused are kept in prison for years without going to trial, like Siddique Kapplan. He was arrested while he was on his way to investigate a caste-based gang-rape and murder of a young girl from a marginalised community. He was released on bail this month.

These operations aim not just to punish those who are being targeted but also aim to send a message to all those who are watching this drama unfold.

And the message has been well received. At one time India was known for its vibrant, raucous and loud

media spanning the entire political spectrum from the extreme right to the radical left with all the nuances in between. But not any longer. And not with the same ferocity. Media houses are owned by large magnates often with close political affiliations to those in power with predictable outcomes.

This is not the first time the media has felt the full force of the government. The former Congress prime minister, Indira Gandhi, declared an emergency in a desperate bid to hang on to power in the mid-seventies. Post the emergency the media bounced back. But that chapter in India’s history left a bitter legacy, not restricted to one party or group, tempted to silence criticism. In today’s politically polarized eco-system, press freedom is on the slide.

One by one media outlets are falling into line ranging from those who have become downright obsequious (called by some the “godi” media or lapdog press) to those who shy away from direct criticism.

In today’s politically polarized ecosystem, press freedom is on the slide.
© Tauseef Mustafa / AFP via Getty Images

Where the process is the punishment, not surprisingly, a more pernicious trend has emerged self censorship.

This is does not bode well for a country which proudly calls itself the world’s largest democracy. India’s ranking in the freedom of press is abysmal 150th out 180 countries according to Reporters without Borders (RSF). It also says India is amongst the five most dangerous countries to be a journalist. Human Rights Watch and nine other organisations made a passionate appeal on World Press Freedom Day last year calling on authorities in India to stop threatening and prosecuting journalists and online critics. The V-Dem Report 2023, from the University of Gothenberg, Sweden, describes India as “one of the worst autocratisers” in the last 10 years.

Whereas international media watchdogs consistently draw attention to the flaws in India’s media landscape, this is not matched by international governments. Given the current geo-political situation in the world, India has carved a sweet spot for itself on the international stage. It has recovered from its initial awkward ambivalence over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, leveraging its position now as a potential asset. Lavish praise was heaped on India by those who believe with its proximity to Moscow, Delhi can influence outcomes and maybe even ’mediate’ peace. Combined with the western disenchantment with China, all roads these days lead to Delhi. There has been a convoy of high-profile visitors to India, including the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.

India is using its G-20 presidency to showcase its power, prowess and potential. It has planned a series of events across the country dazzling delegates with its richness of

culture and promise which will culminate with the G-20 summit in September. In this atmosphere, no one wants to raise uncomfortable questions about how India treats its press. Not even off the record. This gives the government a free reign and the impunity to challenge organizations like the BBC.

But all is not lost. There are a few independent voices who dare to ask difficult questions and expose uncomfortable truths. Some of them have already paid a heavy price for their work but they refuse to succumb. These are often small, independent online outfits or courageous individuals. But the space for independent journalism is narrow and shrinking.

There have been clashes between people supporting and opposing a contentious amendment to India’s citizenship law.

There are a few independent voices who dare to ask difficult questions and expose uncomfortable truths.
173 Weltzeit 2023
© Sajjad Hussain / AFP via Getty Images

Our primary goal:

Enabling people to make free decisions

Our guests were already invited: an advisor to the Minister of Youth, a women’s rights activist an opposition representative of the Tishreen movement, a representative of the Ministry of Labor. On February 2, 2023, there were about 100 chairs ready for the audience in Zawraa Park in Baghdad. A totally normal setting for talk shows in most countries. People share their experiences, argue about different opinions, question themselves and the decisions of the government in office. This is a luxury that a large part of the world’s population does not have. Shortly before this episode of the DW program JaafarTalk was to be recorded in Baghdad, a video circulated on Instagram; referring to an earlier broadcast about homosexuality, the people behind this social media channel, an armed militia in Iraq, unfoundedly accused DW of attempting to

spread “abnormal and perverted” sexual behavior. They called for the government to stop our production. We decided to evacuate our team from Iraq in a hurry after they had been informed by authorities that their safety could not be guaranteed.

Speechlessness has many names: Censorship, disinformation, one-sided reporting, taboos. Behind all of those are the interests of individual groups to secure their political and economic power, often at the expense of their own people. Critical civil societies that make their own decisions based on independent information are their greatest threat. We know this not least from our own history, when a peaceful revolution deposed the communist dictatorship in East Berlin.

However, the restriction of free reporting not only in Iraq, but also in Russia, China, Iran, Ethiopia or Mexico does not

@dw_jaafartalk dw_
dwjaafartalk dw.jaafartalk
Empty set in Baghdad: DW host Jaafar Abdul-Karim and his team have had to cancel a production amid pressure from Iraqi government officials.

render us incapable of acting as a media company. After our team returned to Berlin from Baghdad, we recorded the program here in Germany, with guests from Iraqi society and one of the ministers originally scheduled to take part in the program in Baghdad via satellite link. We can’t just report on issues and opinions that people and media in our target countries are silent about. We have to, that is my deep conviction. Our mission, “Unbiased information for free minds,” is a commitment to break the silence and empower people around the world to form free opinions, in order to actively shape their societies.

We are reaching people where they are looking for information. And that is increasingly on digital platforms. Our target group is young, the world’s population is on average 31 years old, people in India 29 and in Nigeria only 18. For us as an international broadcaster, providing them with the socially relevant information in the right language and on the right platforms in each case means constant data analysis, constant change and intensive cooperation. Our programming draws on excellent quality journalism, a high level of regional expertise and many years of journalistic experience. Where we

bring these skills together, we create contentwith impact. The videos about the canceled production in Iraq posted by the editorial team of JaafarTalk together with clips of the production in our studio in Berlin were viewed more than 42 million times by people in the Middle East.

It’s no coincidence that we hit the favorite topics and needs of our target groups so precisely. There is a well-designed system behind this success, which requires our willingness to constantly adapt. We respond to increasing digital usage by reducing our TV offerings and by producing new, innovative formats, to the fracturing democratic systems with specific language offerings, and we counter taboos with debates. Our journalistic attitude must be that of a service provider for whom the information needs of our target groups in a civil society context are central. We do not lecture, we do not influence. We empower people to make their own informed decisions. For me, this attitude is a profoundly German and European value in the best democratic sense. Where people are at the center, solidarity, peace and equality can emerge. Our primary goal in the program department of DW is to make a valid contribution.

Where people are at the center, solidarity, peace and equality can emerge.
© DW 175 Weltzeit 2023
Jaafar Abdul-Karim in Baghdad

The working environment of the future:

Is New Work the new normal?

talks about changes in work culture and new forms of collaboration.

To what extent has New Work changed the work culture?

I think it is accurate to talk about a paradigm shift in this context. Parallel to digital transformation, which is affecting all areas of life, a new corporate and work culture is developing in which personal responsibility, a sense of purpose and networking are more important than hierarchies. New Work is characterized by flexibility and agility; hierarchies are also fading into the background. It is important to involve professional expertise directly and early on in every process. The

new way of working is more focused on participation, collaboration, and greater opportunities for development. Employees work together on projects across locations and countries, sharing and expanding their knowledge and exchanging ideas. In this context, the aspect of creating purpose is very important; employees want to contribute to the big picture. If this is seen either as a requirement for a job or as a criterion for selecting an employer, DW has a convincing advantage with its meaningful mission and its brand core “Unbiased information for free minds”.

© DW
177 Weltzeit 2023
Employees in Berlin are already experiencing a new workplace.

That sounds like a “bold new world”. What does the change in work culture mean specifically for DW?

With the onset of the pandemic, we saw that the groundwork DW had already begun on New Work in 2019 paid off. Conceptually, it defined three central fields of action: Digital Leadership and Collaboration, Digital Workplace and New Meeting Spaces. The basis for New Work is the attitude and the way managers and employees work together in the sense of Digital Leadership and Collaboration. Managers define goals and frameworks, employees work more independently. Important elements are knowledge management learning from each other, from best practice examples, but also from mistakes the promotion of interdisciplinary collaboration, and a constructive and open feedback culture between employees and managers, at colleague level, right through to peer coaching.

The Digital Workplace focuses on professional frameworks and equipment and is constantly improving opportunities for digital, mobile, and collaborative working. Mobile working has replaced the traditional importance of being on-site in offices. Therefore, it is all the more important to make the best possible use of time on site at the broadcasting centers for joint creative work and exchange, supported by optimized meeting places. Our cross-directorate New Work team is constantly developing the concept, addressing the needs of the directorates, and providing employees with concrete support, including tips in our “New Work Snacks” format. All of this is not an end in itself. We are actively facing up to the digital transformation in all its dimensions in order to secure the future of our company with the help of highly motivated, qualified employees who help shape change.

Speaking of qualifications, what is DW doing to attract skilled experts and retain employees?

DW sees itself as a learning organization. We attach great importance to continuous education, both through the People department and through the internal format “DW Minds”, in which employees share experience from their areas of expertise and lessons they learn in dialog with others. When competing for talent, the attractiveness of a company plays

an increasingly important role. In addition to the meaningfulness of one’s own work, the focus is shifting to the orientation of the (potential) employer. DW is well-positioned in this respect thanks to its mission. This sometimes helps us in areas where we feel the shortage of skilled workers, such as IT or engineering.

We practice value-based recruiting, promote young talent through multilingual traineeships, in-company training including part-time and cooperation with universities. We promote diversity, inclusion, and equal opportunities through active diversity management. For example, DW has already achieved a great deal in terms of gender equality: currently, the proportion of women in management positions is 45 percent. DW is characterized by employees with international backgrounds and different perspectives based on their individual experiences,

and this diversity is increasingly reflected in the staffing of management positions. Self-initiated networks such as Pride@DW and the LGBTQI+ working group also provide an important impetus, which we discuss together and leverage to derive measures. Another important pillar of DW is its commitment to sustainability. Sustainability Management has an ambitious climate protection target and is firmly anchored in the corporate culture.

And what about work-life balance at DW?

From my point of view, it works quite well at DW. The possibility of achieving a good work-life balance is another important criterion when choosing an employer. DW wants to create a working environment in which employees enjoy working and can develop their potential to achieve common goals. We offer flexible working hours and

Equipment is constantly improving opportunities for digital, mobile, and collaborative working.

employment models, easily adaptable part-time options, top sharing, sabbaticals, as well as the opportunity to work temporarily from other countries within the EU. We have many working mothers and fathers in leadership positions who encourage others to embrace leadership, even if they are serious about taking care of their children. And we are pleased that an increasing number of fathers is taking parental leave.

What skills do managers need to promote personal responsibility and self-determination among employees?

Nowadays, managers take on a much stronger role as enablers. In terms of digital leadership and collaboration, they promote personal responsibility, act as role models, and create the framework for interdisciplinary teams. The central leadership element is

communication. Clear task clarification and the definition of common rules are required. This applies all the more when teams work remotely and need to be kept together. This requires motivation through feedback, respect and appreciation. In addition to technical and digital competence, managers need a high level of social competence. We try to systematically support our managers in their work as leaders, with targeted management programs for new and experienced managers, cross-directorate networks, collegial advice, individual training, or coaching offers. Learning and Development and the New Work team also support managers in working together with their teams. All the work around New Work has also been recognized outside DW: it was already honored with the New Work Award in 2020. We were on the right track early on, which we are now continuing together.

New Work is characterized by flexibility and agility.
© DW 179 Weltzeit 2023
modern and collaborative: A different way to see your workspace.

On the verge of an

Israel is located these days, since the establishment of Netanyahu’s new right-wing government, at a critical juncture, facing dramatic developments on various fronts. While the domestic arena is currently focused primarily on the new government’s judicial overhaul, the developments in the Israeli-Palestinian arena are drawing increasing interest, and concern, among the international community, on a scale not seen in recent years. Within two months of the establishment of the government, the UN Security Council convened five meetings dedicated to the conflict, some of which were classified as emergency meetings following exceptional events, including Israel’s National Security Minister Ben-Gvir’s visit to the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the deadly clashes at the Jenin refugee camp, and the violent events in Hawara.

A series of indicators reflect heightened international attention to the conflict since the new government assumed power. The growing US involvement was manifested in visits by Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Advisor Sullivan, and CIA Director Burns, who met with the leaderships in Jerusalem and Ramallah, and in condemnations by senior US officials of the government policy on the settlements. This involvement includes unusual steps not seen in the past decade, namely mediation activity between the parties on formulating understandings (as a condition for withdrawing the Palestinian proposal to condemn Israel in the Security Council), and a decision to leave a team of administration officials in the region to monitor events and promote

Israeli police cavalier rides into a crowd of demonstrators in Tel Aviv.
© picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com / Matan Golan 180 MIDDLE EAST
Text Dr. Lior Lehrs
Weltzeit 2023 181

de-escalation. Until recently, the Palestinian issue seemed to be a very low priority for the administration, and it was only raised on the margins of President Biden’s visit to the region in July 2022.

Similar dynamics are evident in the policies of other international actors. The foreign ministers of France, Germany, Italy, and Britain joined Blinken in issuing an unusual statement expressing “grave concern” over the government’s policy on the settlements; Senior officials from the European Union, Saudi Arabia and the Arab League initiated a special meeting in Brussels on the Palestinian issue; 94 countries signed a statement protesting the government’s punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority (PA); and 15 Security Council members issued a presidential statement (for the first time in eight years) condemning Israeli policy.

These developments complement steps by regional actors chief among them Jordan and Egypt conveying public and secret messages of concern over the new Israeli government’s actions and fear of escalation. The United Arab Emirates,

Israel’s partner in the 2020 Abraham Accords, also plays an important role in this process and initiated, as an UNSC member, a few Security Council meetings on the issue and worked with the Palestinians on drafting a UNSC statement condemning Israel and it also canceled a planned visit by Netanyahu.

The February 26 Aqaba summit with the participation of Israeli, Palestinian, Egyptian, Jordanian and American representatives was a prominent expression of increasing international involvement in the conflict. A public meeting of senior Israeli and Palestinian officials, under regional or international auspices, has not taken place since the collapse of Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace initiative (2013–2014). In fact, the Aqaba Document agreed at the meeting is the first Israeli-Palestinian political memorandum of understanding since the Kerry era.

These developments follow a decade of distinct lack of international involvement in the conflict and a decline in the degree of international interest in the issue. The world was discouraged by the

Dr. Lior


is the Director of the IsraeliPalestinian Peacemaking Program at the Mitvim Institute and a research fellow at the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University.


Many feel that the IsraeliPalestinian conflict is at a critical crossroads and is moving quickly towards an explosion.

rounds of negotiations that failed to yield agreement and did not detect political readiness for a breakthrough on either side. Other issues and arenas attracted greater international attention both in the region (Iran, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan) and on the global stage (China, COVID-19, the rise of populism and, more recently, of course, the war in Ukraine). Additionally, the Quartet the international group (US, Russia, UN and the European Union) that was created to sponsor the peace process, has been paralyzed in recent years.

But these days the world is increasingly recognizing alarming signs and pushing for increased engagement. In many cases of conflicts around the world, international intervention begins, or increases, when escalation develops, or when there is a sense that the parties are approaching a confrontation. The world identifies that the Israeli-Palestinian arena is particularly explosive and sensitive. Indications of this on the ground are numerous and already during 2022 we witnessed a sharp increase in violence in the conflict. The focal points of friction and confrontation are intensifying and accumulating: from the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif, through the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin, Hawara (in the West Bank), the Palestinian prisoners’ protest in Israeli jails, and the recent increase in Israel-Hamas hostilities in Gaza Strip.

In the new Israeli government coalition, actors who served as extreme “spoilers” from outside of the system, are now working within the government in key positions. Radical ideas, such as annexation and violating the status quo on Jerusalem’s holy sites, are being openly discussed by senior coalition spokespersons, and steps once considered beyond the pale, such as legalizing illegal outposts in the West Bank, are becoming official policy. Indications of growing instability have also emerged on the Palestinian side, against the backdrop of the weakening and illegitimacy of the PA, along with increased attacks against Israelis and the ongoing internal conflict between Fatah and Hamas.

Many feel that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is at a critical crossroads and is moving quickly towards an explosion. A dual policy is at play in Israel, with one government arm, led mainly by the security establishment, trying to calm tensions and strengthen the PA, while the other arm, led by representatives of the Religious Zionist party, contributes to unrest, backs up settler violence, and hopes for the dissolution of the PA and the opening it will provide

to promote annexation. This duality was evident when National Security Council head Tzachi Hanegbi was dispatched to Jordan to sign the Aqaba document, while Ministers Smotrich and Ben-Gvir publicly denied the Aqaba understandings. On the Palestinian side, the PA leadership is working to promote stability and improve governance. But it faces increased public opposition, including over its continued security coordination with Israel (as reflected in the growing Palestinian support for the Lion’s Den and the intensification of demonstrations), and efforts by Hamas and Islamic Jihad to exploit its weakness in order to enhance their power.

Under this backdrop, three main actors the United States, Egypt and

Jordan try hard to prevent a seemingly inevitable escalation and to create political and security understandings that will prevent deterioration. They identify a dangerous combination of elements generating the potential for a “perfect storm” and are trying to play the role of the child sticking its finger in the dam. This is an almost impossible task given the existing political conditions, the dangerous dynamics on the ground, and after many years of a prolonged stalemate in the peace process. We can hope that it is not too little, too late, and wish that the international efforts will move beyond adhoc preventive diplomacy, toward a more comprehensive strategy and the creation of a long-term political horizon.

Protests against controversial legal reforms proposed by the hard-right government continue.
183 Weltzeit 2023
© Jack Guez/Afp via Getty Images

Reassessing the approach to Israel

The deepening repression of the far-right Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is providing plenty of reasons for concern. The government has moved to further undermine the judiciary, threatening to leave government decisions entirely untethered from meaningful judicial oversight. It has pursued increasingly deadly raids and continues to expand illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Yet the Western response to these dramatic and dangerous developments has been to recycle long-outdated talking points. Reacting to the latest settlement announcement, the German government, joined by France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States, warned in March that the move might “undermine efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution.”

The Israeli government’s conduct certainly provides grounds for condemnation.

But ritualistic invocation of the “two-state solution” cannot obscure the fact that for decades, the Israeli government has been expanding the settlements with the aim of making a Palestinian state impossible. It has largely succeeded.

The settlements are war crimes, blatant violations of the prohibition in Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention on an occupier transferring members of its population to occupied territory. At some point the International Criminal Court, which has opened an investigation, may prosecute some of the Israeli officials responsible. But the settlements are nonetheless a reality that cannot be wished away.

In 2019, a former Israeli soldier from the group Breaking the Silence gave me a hilltop tour of the West Bank to better understand the layout of Israel’s settlements, outposts, bypass roads, and other obstacles to Palestinians moving freely within their territory.

The separation wall in Bethlehem, West Bank.
185 Weltzeit 2023
© Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images

What is left is a Swiss cheese of Palestinian enclaves, with little hope of ever becoming a viable, contiguous state.

After more than five decades of occupation and 30 years of the “peace process”, it is no longer tenable to regard the repression of Israel’s occupation as a mere temporary phenomenon to be cured by a “peace process” without end. The “peace process” is moribund. While governments speak of a two-state solution, what we have today is a “onestate reality”. Indeed, the main people still invoking the two-state solution seem to be Western officials desperately trying to avoid coming to terms with the unceasing nature of Israeli oppression.

Admittedly, the Palestinian Authority (PA) does not yet speak of a one-state reality. Its officials cling to the illusion of a peace process as the only way to maintain their position of power. Yet the PA has in effect become an Israeli government subcontractor with the task of keeping discontent with Israel’s repressive occupation in check. The credibility of the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also limited by its failure to hold presidential or parliamentary elections since 2006. Along with the Israeli government, it fears that Hamas might win a new election, as it did last time parliamentary elections were held.

If Israel and Palestine are now bound together in a onestate reality, what is that reality? The leading Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, and more than two dozen other Israeli groups; the leading Palestinian human rights group, al-Haq, and scores of other Palestinian rights groups; as well as Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, United Nations experts, among others, have all concluded that it is apartheid.

This is meant not as an historical analogy to South Africa but as a careful analysis of the facts under the legal definition

of apartheid contained in the United Nations convention on the crime of apartheid and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. That definition requires an intent to maintain a system of domination by one racial group over another, coupled with systematic oppression and specified inhumane acts, carried out on a widespread or systematic basis.

While there are differences in the scope of the various analyses, all agree that Israeli authorities are committing the crime of apartheid against millions of Palestinians. That has become the mainstream view of every serious human rights organization to have examined the issue. For example, Palestinians in the West Bank including East Jerusalem live with far fewer rights and far greater restrictions than their Israeli neighbors in the settlements next door.

Supporters of the Israeli government cannot avoid acknowledging this discrimination but have tended to dismiss its importance by arguing that it is temporary that the “peace process” will resolve it. Given the endless “peace process”, with no serious talks in years, that response has long ceased to be credible.

Partisans of the Israeli government also cite Palestinian violence, but the challenge of meeting that violence does not explain building settlements that carve up the West Bank making Israelis more vulnerable, not less stealing Palestinian water and land, or preventing Palestinians in Israeli-controlled parts of the West Bank from even adding a bedroom to their home.

Apartheid is not an easy label to apply, but it is the only fair one to describe the oppressive, discriminatory regime that the Israeli government imposes the government’s policy of privileging Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians.

I understand that these are difficult truths for the German government especially to accept. It has understandably felt a special responsibility toward the Jewish people after the Holocaust. As the Federal Foreign Office puts it, “Germany has a unique relationship with Israel. This stems from Germany’s responsibility for the Shoah, the systematic genocide of six million European Jews under National Socialism.”

Or to put it in more negative terms, Israel’s far-right National Security Minister

While governments speak of a two-state solution, what we have today is a ‘one-state reality.’

Itamar Ben Gvir said in March in response to mild criticism from German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, “The last ones who should be preaching to us are the Germans.”

As the Jewish son of a father who grew up in Frankfurt and fled to New York as a 12-year-old boy in July 1938, I understand in a personal way the evil that the Nazi regime imposed. German reticence to speak of human rights to Israel is understandable, but today, it is wrong.

It is a mistake to equate the current Israeli government with the Jewish people. Jews took two very different lessons from the Holocaust, only one of which is represented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his band of extremist ministers.

They believe that the Nazis persecuted the Jews because the Jews were weak. Netanyahu and his ilk have constructed a state that is strong, which is understandable, but also brutal, which is wrong. The message seems to be that if anyone messes with Israel, they will be not only stopped but also crushed. Palestinians under occupation are the main victims of that logic of repression.

The alternative perspective, which I share, is that power is never enough for protection, especially in a world where a single nuclear weapon in the hands of a hostile state could do terrible harm. Rather, we need to build a world in which norms of conduct are strong enough that governments never resort to the mass persecution, let alone mass murder, of people whom they dislike. We need a world in which global pressure against any temptation toward such persecution or slaughter is consistently and intensely applied.

That is why so many Jews have taken as their lesson from the Holocaust the importance of upholding human rights, especially for disfavored minorities. It is why a majority of American Jews disapprove of the Netanyahu government’s repressive policies.

These alternative lessons drawn from the Holocaust are not wholly contradictory. Each has an element of truth. Yes, the Israeli government needs a strong military to protect itself. But it also needs strong human rights standards. The Netanyahu government’s one-dimensional approach to Israeli security power without regard to human

rights is undermining those standards.

The German government should reassess the lessons that it takes from its Nazi history. Feeling a debt toward the world’s Jews should not mean writing a blank check to the Israeli government as it rips up the important rights lessons that should be taken from the Holocaust.

Persecuting Palestinians not only violates basic human rights principles that the German government and its Western partners regularly invoke in Ukraine, Syria and elsewhere, but it also is not good for the Jews of the world, most of whom live outside of Israel and depend on those norms. And it is not good for Israel, whose security cannot be enhanced by the permanent suppression of the Palestinians with whom it shares a small slice of land.

Apartheid is not a longterm solution. Western governments should say so. The lessons of the Holocaust, far from impeding such candor, compel it.

The German government should reassess the lessons that it takes from its Nazi history.
German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen.
187 Weltzeit 2023
© AP Photo/Markus Schreiber

Managing Palestine’s looming leadership transition

President Mahmoud Abbas, 87, is approaching the conclusion of his tenure as leader of the Palestinian national movement. It is unclear who will succeed him, and by what process, which raises no small number of questions about the Palestinians’ political future.

Under Abbas’s presidency, the Palestinian Authority has become autocratic and ceased to function as the putative foundation for a Palestinian state. Yet it remains critical as the provider of essential services to over three million West Bank Palestinians. A failed transition could trigger violence or even the PA’s collapse.

More than a year after cancelled elections and a violent upheaval, Palestinians face the prospect of a destabilising leadership transition. A smooth succession will be challenging, as Abbas holds

three leadership posts he is president of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and head of both the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Fatah, its largest faction. He has hollowed out or disabled the institutions and procedures that would otherwise decide who will take his place.

Three scenarios present themselves. The first would see Abbas or his interim successors ordering a return to the rulebook, reviving judicial oversight institutions he pushed to the side and reintroducing a degree of popular will into succession procedures.

In the second scenario, either Abbas would anoint a successor before he passes from the scene or, if he fails to do so, then Fatah would select one afterward. Such a step could bring initial stability in a transition but is unlikely to be sustainable.

The third scenario, which is certainly plausible, would see the transition collapse into disarray and, potentially, violence between armed factions aligned with particular politicians and controlling different parts of the West Bank. This last eventuality could throw the PA’s survival into question.

What non-Palestinian actors want is far from immaterial. Israel sees the situation in the territories it occupies primarily as a security concern. To perpetuate the occupation and everything that comes with it, Israel prefers that existing leadership circles remain in charge post-Abbas.

Likewise, neighboring states like Jordan and Egypt, though officials keep mum, would prefer a transition that changes nothing in the equation, if only because anything different might force them to act. As for external powers,

Text Tahani Mustafa
The looming succession could trigger a descent into mass protest, repression, violence and even the PA’s collapse.

such as the US and Europe, they continue to utter words endorsing democracy even as they signal that they would be content with whatever Israel and its neighbours can accept or bring about.

The vast majority of Palestinians would like a legitimate leadership unbeholden to the occupying power that can negotiate at least an end to the occupation and, preferably, a just, durable resolution of the conflict, including for Palestinian refugees the purpose the PLO was intended to serve. Yet with that prospect close to nil at present, and with the PA administering the largest congregation of Palestinians under a single Palestinian governing body, the transition will unavoidably be centred on the West Bank and the three leadership structures headquartered there: the PA presidency, the PLO and Fatah.

A child holds a poster of Mahmud Abbas and others wave Palestinian flags as they welcome the Palestinian president in the city of Ramallah.

If elections were to go ahead, Fatah leaders know that their unpopularity, on display in opinion polls throughout the past year, would cost their faction its monopoly over Palestinian decision-making.

Another problem with general elections from Fatah’s point of view is that the party has been unable to bridge the deep internal divides. The party lacks cohesion even in its senior echelons, as Abbas has pitted his lieutenants against one another to shore up his own position.

Apart from the main figures around Abbas and in the security services, two outsiders, Marwan Barghouthi and Nasser al-Qidwa, could stand a chance at the top position. Barghouthi, a former leader of Fatah’s Tanzim, imprisoned by Israel since 2002, enjoys significant support in the Palestinian street, at least among Fatah

supporters. Qidwa, while lacking that kind of popularity, has good standing in the Palestinian national movement as the nephew of Yasser Arafat and a (former) senior Fatah official.

There appears to be broad agreement among Israeli security officials that Israel needs the PA to survive a leadership transition, if only because having an established, formal communication channel allows Israel to keep shaping events in those parts of the occupied territories under the PA’s sway.

The best-case scenario would entail Abbas, with an eye to a legacy of having been more than a mere post-Arafat officeholder, taking steps to start rebuilding Palestinian institutions and legal procedures. His first moves toward this end would be to reinstate the Basic Law, as well as the PLC, including its elected deputy speaker, and staging

189 Weltzeit 2023
© Abbas Momani / AFP via Getty Images

elections for the aforementioned three institutions.

It appears unlikely, however, that Abbas will do any such thing. Every indication Abbas has given so far points to his intention to further concentrate power in his own hands, and then to bequeath his authority to a successor or successors appointed either by him or by his senior aides if he is unwilling or no longer able to do so.

The more likely scenario is an attempt at succession by appointment. Either Abu Mazen himself would select a new leader, or Fatah elites or the PLO executive committee would do so if he passes from the scene without having made an explicit choice. Clearly, that outcome would be far less salutary for the well-being of the Palestinian polity and would carry much graver risks.

Any anointed successor would likely face considerable pressure to move to elections or be rejected. Most Palestinians still value the PA as a service provider, however deficient, in the occupied territories. Calls will likely grow for precisely the type of electoral exercise that Abbas and his entourage have long spurned, at least for the presidency. It is unlikely that an appointed candidate could serve in much more than a de facto interim capacity until some form of vote.

The looming succession could trigger a descent into mass protest, repression, violence and even the PA’s collapse. Whatever else one may say about the PA and its complicity in Israel’s colonisation, dispossession and annexation, it provides vital support in the form of jobs and essential services to millions of Palestinians. A botched succession would thus be harmful for all main players in this conflict, but most of all for Palestinians in the occupied territories themselves, who would stand to lose the safety net of socio-economic support, however fraying, that the PA has

continued to provide despite the military occupation.

Deeply invested in their hold on power, Abbas today and any possible successor(s) in the future are unlikely to heed calls for a return to the rule of law in the Palestinian territories that would present the strongest prospects for a stable transition. Instead, he or his close entourage seem more likely to resort to some form of anointed succession. But it is doubtful, given the evident unpopularity of the figures around him, that one of them could lead any of these institutions, much less all three, without gaining popular approval. Despite their reticence with regard to Palestinian elections in 2021, Western capitals should do what they can to support such a vote at the very least a presidential contest this time around.

Tahani Mustafa

is the senior Palestine analyst at the International Crisis Group. She is based between Ramallah and Amman.

@crisisgroup crisisgrouporg

A protester holds a rock while gesturing near an Israeli watchtower.
© Abbas Momani / AFP via Ge tty Images

Musicon life

Programme and tickets at beethovenfest.de

Founded in 1845 by Franz Liszt, the festival in Beethoven’s birthplace Bonn is one of the oldest and most renowned festivals in Germany. This year’s edition is thematically dedicated to »life« with more than 70 concerts in Bonn and the region, and featuring artists such as the Tonhalle Orchestra Zurich & Paavo Järvi, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, Sasha Waltz, Pekka Kuusisto, Manchester Collective & Abel Selaocoe, Isata Kanneh-Mason, Christian Tetzlaff, Brooklyn Rider and many more.

31. 8.–24. 9. 23


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Christoph Jumpelt


Carla Hagemann, Simone Heuer, David Keuck, Julia van Leuven, Saskia Müller, Vera Tellmann, Clint Waddell, Ala Zainalabidean


Jorge Loureiro, Nadine Leber, Lisa Jansari, Elena Stammnitz


Milestones (top down):

p.44: © picture alliance/ dpa / epa | © picture alliance / dpa |

© picture alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com / Keystone Pictures USA

p.45: © picture alliance / imageBROKER / Thomas Frey |

© picture alliance / dpa / CTK | © picture alliance / dpa / Hugh Van Es

p.46: © picture alliance / AP | © picture alliance/ dpa / epa afp Seth

Mcallister | © picture alliance / dpa / Bernd von Jutrczenka

p.47: © Scott Peterson / Liaison | © picture alliance/ dpa / Federico Gambarini | © picture alliance / ASSOCIATED PRESS / Lee Jin-man

Authors’ portraits:

p.28: © Andrey Ilyin | p.31: © Human Rights Watch |

p.35: © private | p.38: © private | p.99: © WFP / Rein Skullerud |

p.140: © picture alliance / Keystone / Gian Ehrenzeller |

p.150: © Juliane Halsinger | p.153: © CPJ | p.157: © Albrecht Fuchs |

p.182: © private | p.186: © picture alliance / TT / P. Lundahl


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