Berlin, 09/25/2019

Preserving Our Press Freedom

Subject: Media & Services
Country: International
Category: Project

On September 13, the Bertelsmann Press Freedom working group, with representatives from various corporate divisions, met in the Berlin studios of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland to discuss current issues relating to the editorial and journalistic independence across Bertelsmann's news organizations. The meeting was opened by Oliver Fahlbusch, Chairman Corporate Communications at RTL Group, who officially passed on his role as chairman of the Press Freedom working group to Sonja Schwetje, Editor-in-Chief of N-TV. Sonja Schwetje said: “First of all, I would like to say that I am happy and honored to take over as chair of this working group. As editor in chief of the news channel N-TV I have frequent and in-depth exchanges with our correspondents as well as those from other news outlets. I am confronted with the subject of press freedom on a daily basis. In many countries, including in Germany, we witness restrictions on this freedom, be they explicit or subtle, conscious or caused by ignorance. Together, as part of the Bertelsmann Press Freedom working group, we can and must inform as well as raise awareness among the public and support our journalists.”

“Responsibility towards our viewers and society at large” 

Jutta Bielig-Wonka, Head of the Berlin Studio of Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, and Head of the Politics Department, discussed the delicate balance of media and politics. “Constructive and well-functioning relationships with politicians are the basis for much of our work, particularly here in Berlin, where we regularly report on political news. However, we must never forget that first and foremost we need to report truthfully and transparently by getting the facts right and presenting all aspects of a story. This is our responsibility towards our viewers and society at large, and we can and will not let personal relationships with politicians influence us.”

The group was particularly happy to welcome Gabriella Vidus, CEO of RTL Hungary, and Róbert Kotroczó, News Director of RTL Hungary, who gave a very interesting and insightful presentation about the developments of press freedom in Hungary over the last few decades.

Undercover reports

Eva Pipke and Hanno Panten, lawyers from Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, discussed the topic of press freedom with examples of current press law proceedings at Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland. Undercover reports by “Team Wallraff”, for instance, have occasionally resulted in legal disputes in the past. One such case was the recent documentary “Behind closed doors – Undercover in Psychiatry and Youth Welfare”, which revealed horrendous conditions in the care unit of a psychiatric clinic in Germany. As a result, the clinic in question tried to challenge the legality of the undercover report. After the guests’ presentations, the working group members summed up the current situation in their fields of activity: Sonja Schwetje for Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland, Barbara Kutscher for Bertelsmann, Oliver Fahlbusch and Anja Reichert for RTL Group, Kirsten von Hutten and Ulrike Penz for Gruner + Jahr, Claudia Limmer and Regina Kammerer for Verlagsgruppe Random House and Gernot Wolf for Arvato.