Bettina Hildebrand, Head of Communications German Institute for Human Rights, Berlin (Germany)
6 July 2009
1. What role should the media play in promoting diversity and social cohesion in Europe?
Media as subsystem of society can play an important role in promoting intercultural integration: unity - within -diversity. The approach to this goal: there should be equal access of ethnic minorities to media production, ethnic diversity should be visible in mainstream-media content, no exclusive use of ethno-media. Social cohesion is also about economic and social inclusion, not only about media.
2. Should the media act as a 'responsible partner' in an increasingly multicultural environment?
Media are the “fourth power” and have a watchdog function. Being a “partner” is not the adequate role for the media. Being “responsible” is the every day challenge for the media.
3. How would you respond to the complaint that freedom of speech allows extremists too great an access to the media?
Freedom of expression is a cornerstone human right. Without freedom of expression or freedom of speech victims are invisible, deliberation about society we would like to live in impossible. Freedom of expression is indeed not an “absolute” right like the right to be free from torture, limitations are possible but must be provided by law and not by sensation of danger. Diverse media transport different views and opinions, that is best remedy against extremism and hate speeches.
4. How would you respond to the general criticism that the media is closed to ethnic minorities in Germany?
The media is not closed to ethnic minorities in general . There are more and more people of the second and third generation of the
Turkish immigrants working as journalists, as reporters, as editors or as presenter in mainstream-media. Roma and Sinti are still underrepresented in the field of media work, that is true.
5. How would you respond to the complaint that media reporting of ethnic communities in Germany is generally unfavourable?
There is still a tendency of the media to mention the ethnic background of criminals. The Roma and Sinti communities deplore this regularly. The presentation of forced marriages as a problem only of the Turkish migrants leads to the misperception of the Turkish community as a whole. But there are also a lot of
'success stories' of ethic minorities shown by the media.
6. What steps could be taken to encourage more ethnic minorities into the German media?
There should be stipendia for talented people of the ethnic minorities in universities or schools of journalism and German media should offer special internships and career opportunities for ethnic minorities. On an earlier stage there is also a need for school teachers with intercultural knowledge and capabilities to encourage young people to express themselves through writing or producing films or radio features.
7. How has the media been changed by the development of Europe into multi-cultural societies?
At the moment I see no significant change, if we are talking about mainstream-media. There is still a dual structure of mainstream-media and ethno-media or media for majorities and media for minorities. Some projects like
Arte tv (French/German), Euronews or Radio Multikulti Berlin (recently closed) don’t change the general picture.
8. What measures still need to be taken by media organisations to adapt to Europe’s multi-cultural environment?
The media organisations need a well trained staff with intercultural skills but also regulations on diversity management. Anchormen/women with immigrant or ethnic minority background can serve as role models for the next generations. The content has to be culturally sensitive and should present stories of all European inhabitants.