FUEN’s Media Forum: We disseminate identity

- Press releases

Media landscape changed a lot, the traditional, responsible and added-value journalism is confronted with immense challenges, and these times are especially difficult for the minority media – stated FUEN President Loránt Vincze in Berlin, at the Minority Media Forum.

The FUEN’s Media Forum entitled "Politics and Media for Minorities: Information, Network, Communication" focusing on current minority issues was organised for the first time in Berlin between the 1st and 2nd of February. German-speaking and international media representatives attended the forum promoting the networking of classical print media as well as the development of the online media of minorities or ethnic groups of Europe. Journalists from Germany, Romania, Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Austria, Russia, Kazakhstan, Italy and Croatia contributed with their own experiences to the discussions. The topics of the event were the influence minority representatives have in politics, the role of minorities in the European regions and useful strategies for presenting minorities in an authentic and differentiated manner.

The President of the FUEN said that there is a strong link between minority representation, minority rights and minority media. The main element of one’s ethnic identity is certainly the language, and the existence of the minority media contributes to the survival of these minority languages. The support for the minority mass-media, the appropriate framework for its existence, its integration into the minority institutional system is extremely important – he said.

The conference’s first panel, Looking at Politics, moderated by Andreas Stopp (Deutschlandradio) focused on how Germany’s Bundeslands facilitate broadcasting in minority languages. Although Sorbs make up only 1% of the population, there is a one-hour daily program on the MDR public radio for them, State Secretary and Representative of the Free State of Saxony Erhard Weimann pointed out. Renate Harcke, director of Die Linke-group in Brandenburg talked about the new law for the Sorbs in Brandenburg, but also said that there should be more coverage in German-language media about the minorities. She considered that minorities should have continuous communication with decision makers. Anke Spoorendonk, former Minister in Schleswig-Holstein and Member of the Citizens’ Committee added that minority policies must work on all levels in Europe, and this is why the Minority SafePack Initiative is so important. She also considers that the Copenhagen criteria must be put on the agenda again. Former Commissioner for Matters Related to Ethnic German Resettlers and National Minorities Hartmut Koschyk underlined that in recent years the public perception on minorities has changed, and that they are less associated exclusively with folklore and traditions, but above all with language and identity. He is a proponent of hard justice and therefore welcomes the MSPI and the specific demands it includes. "Tolerance means to endure, but I want acceptance," he said about the perception of minorities in Germany. He considers that the Sinthi and Roma still face discrimination, and that the Frisians are under-funded. The discussion which followed the panel revealed that while in some Member States it is natural for minority media to be financed by state authorities, in other countries the law forbids this practice.

The second panel, Looking at Media and Networks, gave an inside look on the problems the media faces, but also offered some solutions. Edita Slezáková, the President of the Minorities Daily Association, MIDAS, said their members face a constant decrease in readers, and they are considering to change their statute in order to offer membership to electronic media, too. Karoline Gil from ifa presented their Facebok-project Mind_Netz, which shares content from minority media targeting young people, but they also face difficulties because of the changing algorithms of Facebook. Philipp Fritz, editor of ostpol.de considered that large newspapers have difficulties reporting on minority issues, as readers are more interested in conflicts. But if a good story presents itself, it doesn’t matter anymore if it is about the minority or the majority, he considers. Karin Haug, member of the Broadcasting Council of ZDF said that there is a decreasing interest for minorities in public broadcasting, but also, he argued, minorities do not show enough interest in communicating with the majority through media.

Friday’s first panel, moderated by FUEN Vice President Olga Martens was an occasion to present some of the participating media organizations: Der Nordschleswiger from Denmark, which often collaborates with the Danish newspaper of Flensburg but also the local Danish newspaper; Middle Asia’s only German weekly, the Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung from Kazakhstan; the bilingual Serbske Noviny from Germany, which was founded in 1920; the Ladin minority’s weekly, LaUsc di Ladins from South Tyrol, Italy; the Wochenblatt weekly from Poland, which due to a merger became part of a larger media group with television, radio and online; and one of the two German newspapers of Romania, the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung.

The second panel started with a success story, that of the Serbian newspaper Novosti Weekly from Croatia, which managed to increase the number of its readers from year to year by mixing general politics and minority issues. The Hungarian language Kolozsvári Rádió’s story from Romania was also presented: a year ago the public radio service went from 5 hours a day to 24-hours of broadcasting in Hungarian. This was a welcomed change but it also means a lot of work, as the editorial staff is 3-4 times smaller than the Romanian 24-hour broadcast staff. An interesting example was given from Austria, where the Slovenian editorial department of ORF makes an all-day program together with a private provider. The German-Polish Mittendrin, MDR Saxony, and the bilingual Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung were also presented.

The participants considered FUEN’s Media Forum to be a useful project for exchanging experiences, finding solutions together and networking. They agreed that media is an important aspect of every minority’s identity – as one of the participants put it: “We disseminate identity”. In her closing speech FUEN Vice President Olga Martens promised that the Media Forum will have a follow-up.

Photos of the Media Forum

*The project was supported by the Federal Ministry of the Interior and funded by the Federal Republic of Germany.

Key Topics

  • Political Participation
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Linguistic Diversity
  • Solidarity with the Roma
  • European Citizens' Initiative
  • European Network
  • Forum of the European Minorities / House of Minorities


More photos at Flickr