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Friedensförderung durch Brücken der Verständigung
Peace Building through Bridges of Communication

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Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations
Mary Robinson, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights
Koïchiro Matsuura, Director-General of UNESCO:
In every society, freedom of the press is essential to transparency, accountability, good governance and the rule of law. It cannot be suppressed without dire consequences for social cohesion and stability. When it is sacrificed, whatever the reasons invoked, the chances are that conflict is not far down the road.

In times of conflict, the media's responsibilities for independent and pluralistic reporting are more important than ever. They can help to prevent the worst atrocities. But when belligerents see freedom of expression as an enemy to their cause and the media as a tool for propaganda, journalists who attempt to report in a non-partisan way face pressure, manipulation, intimidation, or even elimination. And when they are forced to leave, the cycle of violence does not end. The only remaining eye-witnesses - aid workers and local residents - often become the next targets.

In the aftermath of war, the establishment of a free and independent press offers a way out of mistrust and fear, into an environment where true dialogue is possible because people can think for themselves and base their opinions on facts.

Wherever their independence or security is threatened - whether in repressive societies, in times of conflict or in post-conflict situations - local journalists must be supported and protected in their efforts to maintain a flow of fair and independent information. The international media, too, have an important role to play, in providing non-partisan coverage of conflicts and in calling the world's attention to humanitarian crises, human rights abuses and other situations where oblivion would be the worst of fates for suffering human beings.

The international community must keep on seeking to remedy severe violations of press freedom. On behalf of our organisations, and in the interest of knowledge, justice, and peace, we promise to explore every approach that offers hope of enabling the media to carry out their invaluable and often dangerous work.

Knut Vollebaek, OSCE Chairman-in-Office 1999:
One of the major objectives for the OSCE during the last decade has been to support and nurture the large number of new democracies that emerged out of former totalitarian regimes. One feature common to them all was the need to develop free and independent media. The role of the media will continue to be a vital one as we deal with challenges ahead - in the Balkans, but also in the Caucasus and other parts of the former Soviet Union, including Central Asia. One of the main challenges for the OSCE right now is the acute need for democratic reform in Serbia, as well as in Kosovo, where hate speech is hardening the division between ethnic groups. During my year as Chairman-in-Office, I met with independent media representative every time I visited Belgrade. Their courageous struggle to provide objective information to the people of Serbia made a deep impression on me. The efforts of the regime to silence these brave men and women are totally unacceptable.

Freimut Duve, OSCE-Representative on Freedom of the Media: Since the beginning of the 1990s, conflicts have developed in a completely different way, without any counting up of tanks and missiles: organized hatred between ethnic groups, and so-called "ethnic conflicts", often instrumentalized by the media, have led to military confrontation. The media have played a particular role as instruments for such hatred - and also, in the case of independent, professional media, for example in Sarajevo, in resistance to it. After many decades of dictatorship, the freedom of the media has had and will continue to have a key function to perform in the process of peaceful democratization.

Reconstruction and humanitarian and economic aid will be necessary and will be offered. However, contemplation on the truth and the search for reality will be key elements of civil peace. After the war, everybody must escape from the media trap, and democracies must find out how they can help avoid this trap the next time there is a conflict.

Mihaylo Milovanovitch, Office of the OSCE-Representative on Freedom of the Media: There are no more bombs falling in Kosovo anymore. There are no more refugee camps. There is no more fighting. The war is over and the province liberated. But the war in Kosovo was also a Balkan war. It was a war of the heart, a war for freedom from the others and not with them. It was a war making the past more powerful then it should be, a war that crucified the people to the poin of the memories, to the tombstones of their relatives. And this war still lasts. As long as there are people killed for what they are, for speaking the way they speak, thinking the way they think, the war still lasts. Because there is a much higher freedom then the one guaranteed by institutions - it is the freedom to feel the way you are, the freedom to express yourself. It is liberation from the fear of the past and the hate of the present.

Carlos Westendorp, former foreign minister of Spain, UN High Representative for Bosnia-Hercegovina:
I have always said that without free media nothing would improve. My belief is that this country should have open, modern, and free media... My major concern is that the large political parties in this country control the public media. We have to get rid of politicians in public television.

 

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