Germany: Co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition and a committed partner for media freedom

DIPLOMATIC POUCH - Andreas Pfaffernoschke - The Philippine Star

“Democracy is fragile. You have to fight for every bit, every law, every safeguard, every institution, every story,” Rappler CEO and Filipino Nobel Peace Prize winner Maria Ressa wrote in her 2022 book How to Stand Up to a Dictator. Germany highly values the vital role of free media as a pillar of democracy, integral to the cultivation of a well-informed and empowered citizenry. No free media – no democracy!

This year, Germany took over the co-chairmanship of the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC) alongside Estonia. The MFC is a global network consisting of 50 states and more than 20 non-governmental organizations, working together proactively to advocate for media freedom at home and abroad. All members have signed the “Global Pledge on Media Freedom” in which they vow to promote press freedom on local and global levels.

To do so, the MFC has various tools at its disposal, such as joint statements, advocacy events, silent diplomacy, the Global Media Defense Fund and the Embassy Networks Initiative (ENI). The latter was only established in 2022 with a view to connect and coordinate embassies of MFC countries on the local level.

Since 2022, the MFC has established its own secretariat in London for better operation and administration of MFC activities.

Germany promotes media freedom in the Philippines

In pursuit of its commitment to promote free and independent media, the German Embassy Manila continues to promote media freedom in the Philippines through concrete projects. It has supported VERA Files with the Updating of the Media Ownership Monitoring Database, in partnership with the Germany-based organization Global Media Registry. The landmark database provides comprehensive information on media outlets across print, radio, television and online media.

It seeks to promote transparency and accountability in media ownership, and ultimately advance media literacy amongst the general public. Lack of information integrity disempowers the public, impacting the behavior of citizens and society, and the types of governments we elect.

The embassy also partners with IDEALS, Inc. for Advancing Media Safety through Policies, Legal Service and Initiatives for Press Freedom in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), a project geared towards building the capacities of media practitioners and the Bangsamoro Press Corps (BPC) in ensuring journalists’ safety, increasing access to legal services and advancing an enabling policy environment for a thriving and independent press.

Threats to media workers

Germany remains a committed partner to the Philippines across various fields. Our common responsibility to promote and protect democratic values, the rule of law, human rights and a rules-based international order cannot be achieved without free media.

Today’s information ecosystem has been significantly changed: information technology has dramatically transformed the way in which information is produced, disseminated, accessed and consumed, thus paving the way for new, unprecedented opportunities as well as threats that require creative solutions and responses. Systematic disinformation networks and the rise of artificial intelligence have posed new challenges to the already precarious position of journalism in the broader media landscape.

The Philippines currently ranks 134th out of 180 countries in the 2024 Reporters without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index. According to the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility and the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, 135 incidents of attacks and threats against media workers were recorded from July 1, 2022 to April 30, 2024. Some media workers are at higher risk of certain threats: according to the European Center for Press and Media Freedom, female journalists, for example, are disproportionately more vulnerable to sexual violence, both online and offline, and statistically face more online hate speech and harassment than their male colleagues. By supporting media freedom here in the country, we aim to improve the ranking of the Philippines in the World Press Freedom Index.

Building trust

As Ressa has long forewarned us, without facts, you can’t have truth; without truth, you can’t have trust.

The work of the MFC benefits journalists and media workers, as well as the wider public. MFC works towards strengthening public safeguards to improve the circumstances in which independent media can thrive, providing journalists with the tools to know and use their rights to defend themselves against intimidation, bullying and stigmatization.

A free press serves as a watchdog, holding those in power accountable. When journalists can operate without fear of censorship, retaliation or violence, they are fulfilling their crucial role to the public as they provide comprehensive information and contextualize how they process it. This free flow of information cultivates transparency and prosperity in society. At an economic level, this serves as an integral tool in building trust and strengthening institutions, ultimately curbing corruption and creating an environment for businesses to flourish.

Moreover, press freedom fosters a diverse range of perspectives and ideas, promoting a more inclusive and dynamic society. It empowers individuals to make educated decisions, enhances community engagement and helps to protect other fundamental rights.

Without media freedom, truth becomes elusive. Defending it is not simply a course of action, but a moral imperative. Germany and the Philippines are partners across a broad range of fields, and remain even more closely connected in the existential challenge of rebuilding a world that is more just, fair and inclusive, for generations to come. Let us intensify our cooperation on media freedom – for the sake of democracy and a prosperous future of the Philippines.

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Andreas Pfaffernoschke is Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Philippines.

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