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'Freedom of press a fundamental right, not a luxury'

  • Published at 08:31 pm June 7th, 2019
DW chief
Deutsche Welle Chief Peter Limbourg at the Global Media Forum held at Bonn, Germany from May 27-28 Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan/Dhaka Tribune

Peter Limbourg, chief of German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle, speaks with Dhaka Tribune's Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan about the freedom of expression and media, and the shrinking media space

Freedom of press is not a luxury, it is the fundamental right of every citizen of the world, Peter Limbourg, director general of Deutsche Welle, a German public broadcaster, has said. 

In an exclusive interview with Dhaka Tribune's Humayun Kabir Bhuiyan on May 27, Limbourg placed great emphasis on concerted efforts to ensure the right for everyone, everywhere. 

“Freedom of press is not a luxury. It is a fundamental right for all citizens across the globe,” he said at the interview, held on the sidelines of the recently-concluded Global Media Forum 2019 organized in the German city of Bonn from May 27 to May 28.

Deutsche Welle (DW), which is funded by the government but independent of it, organized one of the biggest media conferences in the world at the World Conference Centre, Bonn, which used to house the German lower house of Parliament until 1999, in partnership with German Federal Foreign Office and many other organizations.

Over 2,000 participants from 140 countries took part in the two-day mega event that discussed all the aspects of freedom of media and freedom of expression.

“It is needless to say that the freedom of press has been on decline for the last few years, and we all need to work collectively to ensure the fundamental right of every individual,” said DW chief Limbourg, a career journalist, who has been in the office since October 1, 2013.

He also stressed the need for ensuring freedom of expression and right to information for the people through ‘media literacy’.

When asked to explain what he meant by ‘media literacy’, the veteran newsman said, “People need to be informed about their rights to free press, expression and information. Things will definitely get better when people will realize that these are not privileges, but rights.”

He noted: “And this is where we, the journalists, along with others, have a big role to play."

DW believes in freedom of press, freedom of expression and right to information anywhere in the world, Limbourg said. 

DW promotes these rights of the people throughout the world. Its signature event, the Global Media Forum, is part of its efforts to ensure the rights, which are certain to contribute enormously to making a just and equal society, he said. 

“The freedom of press and freedom of expression are key stones of democracy,” said the DW chief, expressing his concern over the shrinking spaces for media in many countries in the world.

“These are certainly not getting better,” he observed.

Painting a grim picture of shrinking media spaces across the world, Limbourg said that there have been continuous efforts from different sides, be it autocratic regimes or populist politicians, to snatch these rights from the people.

Many politicians in the world are spreading messages of their own choice through state media that they control and social networks, he said.

He added that nowadays, obstructing people to get access to information has become a tool of power.

Citing the example of China, the Director General of DW, which provides services in 30 languages, Limbourg said, “Our contents are censored before airing in China. This is simply unacceptable.”

When asked what measures should be taken against the countries that do not adhere to the universal values in regards to rights to free press and expression, he said, “We need to do what needs to be done. If necessary, economic pressure should be applied against those nations.”