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26. September 2019 Eröffnung der Global Investigative Journalism Conference

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Grußwort des Senators Dr. Carsten Brosda

Global Investigative Journalism 2019

Ladies and Gentlemen,

“We will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty.”

Those words were written 136 years ago by Joseph Pulitzer when he took over the newspaper “New York World”. They are an aspiration for investigative journalism. As timeless and valid today as it was back then.

Pulitzer had some other wise words. He said:

“Our republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

And that is why I am here today. Because, as a politician, I firmly believe that we need a strong, free press – also, and perhaps precisely because, it can be uncomfortable. A democracy cannot live without a free and open public sphere.

And so I am delighted that the “Global Investigative Journalism Conference” is taking place in Hamburg this year. A warm welcome on behalf of the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

In Hamburg we are currently emphasising the importance of a free and strong press with a major poster campaign. Some of you may have seen one or other of the posters that we are displaying in public during the Global Investigative Journalism Conference.

Journalists, especially investigative journalists, have probably never had it easy, and yet today their situation is worsening dramatically across the world. The forces acting on them are, on the one hand, the algorithm-fuelled fraying of social discourse on digital platforms and, on the other, autocratic politics.

Hamburg is probably Germany’s most important media centre, and Germany is an established democracy. That is both our good fortune and a responsibility.

And so we want to be more than just a good host to international conferences. We want to encourage awareness of the special qualities and value of investigative work.

This public awareness of the value of investigative journalism is the essential prerequisite for its long-term success. For if it loses public attention or credibility, if it is no longer able to denounce scandalous behaviour or to shock us by uncovering dubious or criminal machinations. We need the public trust in your role as “Watchdogs of Democracy” – as the champions of democratic society. A truthful journalism is fundamental for rational discourse.

And so public awareness is of critical importance at this time. We treat the journalistic achievements that we so sorely need for the freedom and enlightenment of our open society too casually and we take them too much for granted.

We need to watch out constantly in order to secure the freedom and liberalism and pluralism we achieved. We have to witness worrying signs of disrespect and denunciation even here in Germany. Verbal attacks on journalists, and even physical ones, are on the increase here, too. The report by “Reporters without Borders” in early 2019 detected an environment more hostile to the media than for a long time.

So far these are just isolated incidents. Compared to other countries we can say that the overall situation here is very good. Here journalists are largely free from censorship, oligarchic structures and massive intimidation or violence. But we must be vigilant if that is to remain the case.

The debate about where the dangers lie and what we can do to combat them is one that must be had by us all: by you, the practitioners, the creators of the media, the journalists, by the politicians, whose job it is to create the proper framework and by the wider public, who have an entitlement to and an interest in free, independent, critical reporting.

If we all work together, I hope we will succeed in strengthening the value we put on free journalism and defending it vehemently against hostility or threats. For we need a free, strong media landscape and we need you, the journalists.

“Our republic and its press will rise or fall together.”

Your work is indispensable to democracy.

We are delighted that you have come to Hamburg.

Thank you.

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