Space for Freedom: Riga gathering examines exile journalism experience | Space for Freedom | DW | 13.07.2023
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Space for Freedom

Space for Freedom: Riga gathering examines exile journalism experience

Changing the exile media perspectives and raising standards: In Riga, journalists participating in Space for Freedom project discussed their experiences.

DW Event | One year on. The ways to sustain editorial integrity in exile

Kiyo Dörrer, Editorial Lead Planet A, DW. Dörrer spoke on “Planet A": Reaching new audiences with quality content on Youtube and TikTok”

On June 16, a panel discussion, "One year on. The ways to sustain editorial integrity in exile," took place in Riga. The discussion was part of the DW Akademie project Space for Freedom, which assists journalists in exile. 

Latvia has become significant for the "Space for Freedom" project. At this recent networking event, participants spoke about changes they felt while in exile and stressed the need to integrate Russian journalists into the European media environment. Talking about the importance of this process, Johannes Metzler, DW Akademie, shared his own experience: 

"I spoke to an Afghan journalist working in the UK, who said: "I'm in Afghanistan all the time." This phrase shocked me. You cannot live and work here while mentally being in a completely different place. That is why DW is developing guidelines for working with journalists in exile."  

DW Event | One year on. The ways to sustain editorial integrity in exile

Johannes Metzler, DW Akademie's Head of Unit for Latin America, welcomed participants

Integration can and does work

Of course, guidelines and rules apply not only to those who have emigrated. Regarding differences in mentalities and cultures, the colossal team of Deutsche Welle, where people from more than 160 countries work side-by-side, proves that integration is vital to successful professional functioning. DW Editor-in-chief Manuela Kasper-Claridge explained what the uniting factor here is: 

"We all stand by our code of conduct, based on freedom of speech, upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law, open-mindedness, tolerance, and transparency towards the public. Those who want to work at DW must accept and sign the code to show that they share these values. We must also be transparent about our mistakes. Yes, we all make them, but they need to be fixed as soon as possible. For example, yesterday, our colleague misused a term in an article, and we immediately put a note under the piece with apologies and the correct word. So, that is how we work,"  she said during the discussion. 

DW Event | One year on. The ways to sustain editorial integrity in exile

Panel discussion “One year on. The ways to sustain editorial integrity in exile" Left to right: Juri Rescheto, Moderator, DW Riga Bureau Chief; Anton Lisenkov, Editor-in-chief, Spektr Press; Ekaterina Kotrikadze, News Director, TV Rain; Manuela Kasper-Claridge, Editor-in-chief, DW; Sabīne Sīle, Director, Sustainability Foundation, Media Hub Riga

Work ethics and fact-checking

Speaking about mistakes, one of last year’s most resonant stories was the dismissal of a TV Rain presenter who talked about "helping Russian servicemen with equipment" while on air. Looking back at this, TV Rain’s information service director Ekaterina Kotrikadze opened up about how situation’s circumstances: 

"We said goodbye to our colleague when countries with strict ethical standards put us under their radar, and we made the only correct decision. We were punished. If such a thing had happened in Russia, everything could have ended less radically. But it wouldn't work here and now." 

According to Kotrikadze, TV Rain has since adopted DW's approach. The strategy was reassessed, and a journalist’s ethical work code was finalized and signed. TV Rain also plans to focus on fact-checking. 

Another discussion participant, the editor-in-chief of the online magazine Spektr Press Anton Lysenkov pointed out that one difficulty for journalists in exile is their constantly changing balance of perception: 

"This is a moral and ethical problem. With each new event, we perceive the situation differently. How to maintain balanced coverage of these events? If the objective is to give the floor to two holders of polar points of view, then concerning the current situation, it is essential to understand what proportions to follow to avoid offending the audience." 

Sabine Sile, of Riga Media Hub, summarized that the Space for Freedom project also helps journalists adapt psychologically: 

"It is vitally important to understand why you are doing your job. It is impossible to cope with problems when there is a conflict or when you have experienced things you did not have time to analyze. Realize your values, and don't be afraid to move on. In the project, we can strengthen ties with those who give strength and support. You cannot underestimate this value of the project." 

DW Akademie is conducting the Space for Freedom project as a network partner of the German government's Hannah Arendt Initiative. Through this initiative, the Federal Foreign Office and the Federal Commissioner for Culture and Media are supporting journalists, media workers and defenders of freedom of expression in crisis and conflict areas, as well as those living in exile.