Welcome Speech Lord Mayor of Potsdam, Jann Jakobs

Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Secretary of State,
Ms. Sindeeva,
Ms. Koch,
Members of the Advisory Board,
Distinguished guests,

I would like to welcome you to the 13th ceremony for the M100 Media Award, held in the Orangery Palace at Sanssouci. We are glad that you all made it to Potsdam today to honour a special woman.

With Natalia Sindeeva, we distinguish a woman who embodies much of what characterises this award: courage, perseverance and an unwavering belief in the importance of independent reporting. This makes her a role model for the defence of democracy, freedom of the press and freedom of expression, and we are deeply honoured that you are here today to receive this prize, Ms. Sindeeva.

Natalia Sindeeva is neither an activist nor a martyr; she is simply a journalist doing her job, despite the great limitations, threats and risks she and her staff confront. She believes in what she does. And that it is right. That what makes her a symbol for all journalists who want to do their job, regardless of state or economic influence – who just want to show the world how it is. Independent journalism must be defended and reinforced. Because without independent journalism, without independent reporting, no democracy is possible.

If we ask the question of democracy or despotism, as the title of this year’s M100 Sanssouci Colloquium does, and as Can Dündar did in his fantastic opening speech this morning, then this has a lot to do with the existence of free, independent media. This existence is increasingly threatened in many European countries, East and West. I do not have to go into individual examples here. We all know them. And even here, where we stand now, in this place, in this country, there was no free press for 40 years. Now, almost 28 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Iron Curtain, we are increasingly surrounded by repressive, anti-democratic developments that also threaten freedom of expression. Their reasons are varied and complex, and they were discussed intensively throughout the day here in the Orangery.

The award ceremony also strikes an important connection to our 15 young journalists who are sitting here in the audience tonight. With support from the German Federal Foreign Office and the ZEIT Foundation, they worked on the question of how to finance independent journalism last week at the Media Innovation Centre in Babelsberg. I hope that the workshop has brought you new insights and that you can realise your projects with this new knowledge. These young journalists are all from the Eastern Partnership countries and from Russia. The funding of independent journalism is a task to which all sectors of society in all parts of Europe should be dedicated, one that the economy, politics and society should support much more intensively. Because without free media, no free societies are possible and without free societies, commerce is threatened as well. Unfortunately, commerce is not always aware of this contingency. Ms. Sindeeva knows plenty about it, and I’m sure we’ll hear it in her acceptance speech.

Ladies and gentlemen, almost 80 of you – leading journalists, historians and representatives of political organisations from across Europe and the US – have spent the day here in the Orangery discussing democracy, despotism and the role of the media. This annual exchange, which has been taking place since 2005, has become a fixture in the annual calendar for many, something that also comes through in the quality of the event – which is not just about this unique location but, above all, the people that stand behind this project. These are my colleagues on the advisory board on the one hand, along with the small team that supports this event every year. I’d like to extend them all my warmest thanks.

I would also like to thank the funders and sponsors who made this event possible, most especially Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, which has been faithful to M100 for years, the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington, and the German Foreign Office. We are grateful to oz capital and its CEO Olaf Zachert as well as the Potsdam-based agency Medienlabor, which gave M100 a wonderful new website this year, and last but not least Facebook, which also supports this event. Thanks also to our partners, Deutsche Welle and rbb as media partners; and the young think tank Polis180, Reporters Without Borders, Sourcefabrik and the Prussian Palaces and Gardens Foundation.

Thirteen years – if we were superstitious, we would have had to skip this 13th event, just as there are many skyscrapers without a 13th floor and no 13th row of seats in some airlines. But the number 13 means more than just misfortune; it also stands for change and transition, transformation, letting go, farewell, new beginnings and growth. That’s why the number 13 fits in perfectly with this year’s event, which is all about these topics. Let us take this opportunity together, and start off in a new Europe. Help defend and stabilise our democratic values. And let us hope, when we meet again at this point next year, that the dark forces have not won.

With this in mind, ladies and gentlemen, I wish you all a pleasant, festive, inspiring and moving evening, and will give the floor to State Secretary Lindner.

Thank you very much.