“It is bad if journalists cannot exert their fundamental rights”
“Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” awarded in Leipzig: award goes to three courageous journalists – discussion about a future Centre for Press Freedom
LEIPZIG. Today, 13 October , the “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media” will be awarded to journalists Fahem Boukaddous from Tunisia, Stefan Buchen from Germany and Oleg Kashin from Russia at the Media Campus Leipzig. The prize with a total purse of 30,000 Euros will be awarded for the eleventh time by the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. The prize honours individuals who have committed themselves particularly courageous and prudent for the freedom of press and expression. “Many journalists in the world have to fight for a free reporting without censorship. This is bad”, said Stephan Seeger, managing director of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig during today’s press conference. However, it is much worse that they not only have to fear for their work, but often for their health and lives.
Fight for democracy
“This year’s laureates are distinguished by the fact that they did not grew tired of reporting about deficiencies of democracy despite of personal limitations”, said Stephan Seeger. He also praised their hard work: “Freedom of press and expression are cornerstones of democracy. I am always impressed how many journalists are taking up the fight every day and engage for the freedom of the media and an independent reporting”.
An example: Oleg Kashin, Russian investigative journalist, was attacked outside his appartment in Moscow and brutally beaten in November 2010. Despite this intimidation, he continues to report not only corageous about oppression in his home country, but also picks up social and environmental issues. It is his main concern to work as a normal journalist again and to bring something about by revealing abuses, said Oleg Kashin during a walk through Leipzig. The Peaceful Revolution of 1989, which started in Leipzig and led to the demise of the East German regime, is exemplarily to Kashin. The prize has two meanings for him: for Russia, it should be a reason to think about the issues of his reporting. And secondly, Kashin hopes that the investigation against the perpetrators who attacked him will be promoted through the prize and that they will finally be taken into custody.
Fahem Boukaddous, another laureate, is considered a symbol of the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia this spring. Years before the political change in Tunisia, the 41-year-old journalist has reported critically about the autocratic rule of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. He also had to suffer repressions and oppression by the regime. Fahem Boukaddous thinks, that he speaks for many Tunisians from the heart when he says: “Ben Ali has not killed one journalist, but the complete press in the country.” In the opinion of the jury, his will and his strength to report about injustices in his country openly even after being sentenced and arrested deserves even more recognition. The still difficult situation in Tunisia needs committed democrats like Fahem Boukaddous, especially now in the current upheaval.
Stefan Buchen became known for his thrilling reports from crisis regions. He has become the German epitome of authentic reporting. Whether Libya, Afghanistan, Iran or Iraq: the 42-year-old reporter from the ARD (First German Television) spares no danger, to show the world what is really happening. His excellent language skills open him direct access to the people. Their feelings and desires are incorporated into his reporting, which makes him one of the best German journalists abroad. “We are very pleased that the jury has selected a German journalist after many years”, said Stephan Seeger. “For us who live in a democracy and who have a free press, it is important to experience the true events abroad. Stefan Buchen brings them close to us in a shocking real manner”.
The laureates demonstrate in different ways how important it is to strive for the right of freedom of the press and expression in every country. “Our prize is also an appeal to all governments to protect and respect the freedom of the press”, said Stephan Seeger. For this reason, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig organises a panel discussion on “Let the prizes be followed by deeds – a Centre for Press Freedom” on the afternoon. It is headed by Hans-Ulrich Jörges, member of the editorship of Stern magazine. On last year’s award ceremony, he had proposed a centre for press freedom. The Media Foundation has taken up this idea and wants to support the realisation of such a transnational press centre.
Prize as a signal to the world
Since 2001, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig honours journalists, publishers and media institutions from all over the world, who stand up for the protection and development of the freedom of expression and the press with persistence and democratic conviction. The prize is also meant to keep the remembrance of the Peaceful Revolution in Leipzig on 8 October, 1989 alive: at that time, the demonstrators demanded for “a free press for a free country”.
Award in accordance with clear criteria
This year, the laureates were again selected according to clearly defined criteria. The process of nomination was accompanied in advance by Dr. Martin Welker, professor of journalism at Leipzig University, and his team. Professor Welker’s scientific team examines the proposed candidates for the prize on the basis of clear features.
The journalistic performance of the laureates
• must relate to a relevant or remarkable object of general interest,
• is also judged as a contribution to strengthen the freedom of press – for example by resistances which had to be overcome,
• induced personal risks for the journalist
• demanded a far-above-average use of time and energy,
• is of excellent journalistic and craftsmanship quality
Whoever wants to support and sponsor the development of a free media has to consider more than the mere economic and employment-oriented aspects. A media centre becomes especially important and attractive when it represents a climate where the media’s great responsibility towards society is recognized as a duty as well as a challenge.
The Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig public savings bank wants to contribute to this climate. One of its key commitments is the fostering of training and further education possibilities for young people in the media field. This involves scholarships (e.g. through the Leipzig Media Award), targeted project support, and the organization of civic education events, such as for the commemoration of the Peaceful Revolution of 1989 in Leipzig.
The Foundation projects are financed by the Foundation itself as well as third party contributions and donations.
Every year, the Foundation awards its “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media”. In addition, the Foundation awards the “Axel Eggebrecht Prize”, the “Günter Eich Prize” and the “Golden Dove” (former “Talent Dove”).Diese Seite ausdrucken
The Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is particularly committed to education and training in the media sector. Therefore, the Foundation cooperates closely with local universities and other educational institutions and founded institutes, launched initiatives and projects and created the necessary infrastructure for media-related activities. The respective core institutions are:
Discover these areas by visiting the related web pages and learn more about the funding spectrum of the Media Foundation.Diese Seite ausdrucken
Award ceremony of the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media 2017
(all pictures: Media Foundation/Volkmar Heinz)Diese Seite ausdrucken
The Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is committed to the memory of the Peaceful Revolution that took place in East Germany in 1989. Freedom of speech and unrestricted gathering of information through a free and independent press were key demands of the civil rights activists and demonstrators during the Leipzig Monday demonstrations at that time.
The exhibition “Sites of the Peaceful Revolution” realised by “Bürgerkomitee Leipzig e. V.” (“Citizen Committee Leipzig association”) takes you on a tour through Leipzig to 20 original locations, marked by pillars, where important events happened that helped to bring down the SED dictatorship regime in the year of the Democratic Change (1989/90) (more information can be found here). Additionally, the app “Leipzig ’89” offers a GPS-based tour of the 20 pillars with an audio guide in six languages. In addition to the individual pillars, more than 300 photos, documents and videos are available through this app (the app can be found here).
Through the annual awarding of the “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media”, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig supports the freedom of press and with it the memento of the events of 1989.
The defense of the freedom of press is more important than ever. Even in free societies it is endangered: the patterns of suppression of information are becoming more subtle.
By awarding further prizes – such as the “Golden Dove” for the best documentary of a talented newcomer at the International Leipzig Festival for Documentary and Animated Film (formerly known as “Talent Dove”), the “Günther Eich Prize” and the “Axel Eggebrecht Prize”, the Foundation promotes culturally and qualitatively sophisticated work in text, sound and film.
All awards of the Media Foundation are summarised under the generic term “Leipzig Media Award”.Diese Seite ausdrucken
It was at the Leipzig Media Congress, held by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation in October of 2010 on the 10th anniversary of the creation of its Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media, that Hans-Ulrich Jörges, Co-Editor of STERN magazine and Editor in Chief for Special Affairs of Gruner + Jahr, introduced the idea of creating a European Centre for the Freedom of the Press to the public for the first time. In 2009, Jörges had already initiated the European Charter on Freedom of the Press, signed by 48 editors in chief and other influential journalists from 19 countries. The next step, creating a Centre for Freedom of the Press, was a means of putting this charter into practice.
Leipzig was the heart of the Peaceful Revolution in Eastern Germany where, in the fall of 1989, tens of thousands of GDR citizens protested state power and made many demands, among them the demand for freedom of the media. Now Leipzig seems to be the perfect place to continue, with its Media Foundation that has already promoted freedom of the press for years. The Media Foundation builds on the spirit of that autumn in 1989, and has funded the Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media since 2001.
Immediately after the 2010 Media Congress, we began working on a concept to serve as the basis for a search for new project supporters. Our tasks included identifying the legal entity that would guarantee the centre the maximum degree of independence and manoeuvrability. The board was eventually able to find a partner with expertise in EU law who was prepared to work with the project pro bono until its official foundation. This partner was the law firm CMS Hasche Sigle. They found the European Cooperative Society (SCE) model to be the most suitable legal form for the project, and set about creating draft statutes based on the Centre’s intended goals.
The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF for short) seeks to provide those who defend the freedom of the press and the media in Europe with a voice that will be heard. The Centre’s core tasks are to bring European media freedom initiatives and actors together under one roof and to coordinate their activities. Thanks both to its diverse member base from all across Europe and its team in Leipzig, the ECPMF is able to document instances in which the freedom of the press has been violated and journalists persecuted, and to inform both the public and those with the power to make political decisions of relevant ongoing conflict and imminent danger in Europe.
One important step was winning the support of EU institutions in order to establish the project as a European initiative. Hans-Ulrich Jörges; Christoph Keese, Senior Vice President for Investor Relations and Public Affairs at Axel Springer SE; and Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation found an extraordinary advocate in Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament. In discussions with other members of the Parliament, including Vice President Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and Elmar Brok, Head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, we were able to form an alliance of supporters spanning all political parties. Finally, in its consultations, the Parliament approved a budget of one million euros to found the Centre.
On the condition that the project would receive EU funding, the Free State of Saxony and the City of Leipzig also declared their willingness to provide financial support. With the additional financial commitment of the Sparkasse Media Foundation, all of the necessary steps could be taken. Ultimately, we were able to create a detailed project plan that would allow us to submit an application to the European Commission and to seek the support of European journalistic organizations, institutions, and associations that promote issues concerning the freedom of the press. To do so, further expert input was needed.
We searched for a suitable project manager and found Dr Lutz Mükke. He was already familiar with the foundation, having been its first Ph.D. scholarship fellow. Dr Mükke began a rewarding search for project partners across Europe. At the same time, our attention was focused on developing a detailed draft concept. In addition to the Free State of Saxony, the City of Leipzig, and the Media Foundation, we also gained the support of the Federal Foreign Ministry. In October 2013 we were able to submit the application to the European Commission on time.
Sadly, to the great disappointment of everyone involved, including the members of the European Parliament themselves, the European Commission did not select the 2013 application. Instead of funding a single Centre, they decided to support several projects and organizations. Nevertheless, following the Board’s recommendation and explicitly encouraged by both the President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, and the other supporting members of the Parliament, the Media Foundation Council decided to stick to the plan and submit a new application in 2014. There was a new call for project participants and we restructured the concept before submitting it in a new application to the Commission.
In March 2015, we finally received the message from the European Commission in Brussels saying that the Media Foundation had won the bid and had been selected as leading partner, together with partners from three other European countries, to form the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. The other partners were Journalismfund.eu from Belgium; the Institute for European Media Law from Germany; Ossigeno per l’Informazione and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, both from Italy; and the South East Europe Media Organization, or SEEMO, from Austria.
The founding assembly of this European Cooperative Society (SCE) and the election of the members of the Board and Supervisory Board took place in Leipzig on 24 June, 2015.
The list of founding members includes representatives from more than 20 European journalistic organizations, media companies, and trade unions, as well as media experts and lawyers from all over Europe. The legal entity of the European Cooperative Society guarantees the Centre’s validity in all 28 EU member states and a maximum degree of independence from government institutions. At the same time, it enables the direct participation of affiliated organizations and initiatives in the Centre’s work. This cooperation can be seen in many places, including in the bodies of the ECPMF. Both the Board and the Supervisory Board count a number of representatives from important European freedom of the press initiatives among their members. The Centre’s operations are coordinated in Leipzig at the Media Campus Villa Ida, the seat of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation.
After having played such a decisive role in developing, planning, promoting, and financing this project, the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation has now decided to pursue its inclusion in the register of cooperative societies and attain full legal capacity to act, thus becoming a completely independent and autonomous institution. The foundation will always support the ECPMF to the best of its ability. The foundation would like to thank CMS Hasche Sigle law firm, BDO auditing company, certified public accountant and tax consultant Hartwig Künckeler, and German Cooperative Union in Frankfurt for having offered their expertise and generous support.
Managing Director of the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation
Director Foundations of Sparkasse Leipzig
Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig
Phone: +49 341 – 5629 661
Fax: +49 341 – 5629 663
The “Media Campus” in the Leipzig district of Gohlis was erected by the Media Foundation. Together with the historic Villa Ida building where the actual seat of the Foundation is located it forms an interesting ensemble and thus literally combines old and new.
“Media Campus Villa Ida” is home of the “Leipzig School of Media” (LSoM), a subsidiary of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig. In cooperation with local universities, the LSoM offers part-time master courses for media professionals. www.leipzigschoolofmedia.de
The building includes a large hall for events with a capacity of up to 280 seats, which can be divided by a movable partition wall. This room can also be used as a lecture hall. On the first floor you find two seminar rooms with 25 seats each, a training room for video editing with ten seats and an audio recording studio. On the top floor there is a PC room with 23 seats and offices for lecturers. In addition, the building accommodates a small public bistro, which also supplies the Media Campus and four apartments for scholars/guest lecturers.
Hotel Michaelis Leipzig runs our “Restaurant Campus” and is the exclusive partner for the catering of every event at “Media Campus”.Diese Seite ausdrucken