The Deutsche Welle Academy Press Freedom Worldwide

Participants of the DW-Academy
Participants of the DW-Academy | Photo (detail): © DW

The Academy of the Deutsche Welle has been working for almost fifty years all over the world for free and independent media – also in the training of the next generation at university and in internships.

When Daniel Márquez comes to speak of public broadcasting in Germany, he goes into raptures: “Quality journalism is important for a society”, says the thirty year-old journalist from Ecuador. “In Germany the media keep tabs on politics without letting themselves be co-opted by it or simply going in for ‘politician bashing’.” Márquez knows what he is talking about: he is currently finishing his master’s degree in International Media Studies – a programme that the Academy of the Deutsche Welle (DW Academy) in Bonn has been offering in cooperation with two universities since 2009. Márquez’ specialty is the analysis of media systems, and he wants to write his master’s thesis on public broadcasting.

The DW Academy has a long history, but its basic goals have remained the same over the years: “We want to support freedom of the press and freedom of access to information”, explains its deputy director, Carsten von Nahmen. This aim it pursues worldwide, for the target countries of the Academy are in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Central Asia, the Near and Middle East. In the opinion of the journalist von Nahmen, a free society is impossible without freedom of the media. “In this sense the media are a vehicle on the way to a free society.”

The problem is not always open censorship

Since its beginnings in 1965, however, the work of the Academy has changed significantly. “The training of individual journalists didn’t go far enough for us, because as soon as they returned to their daily lives they were faced by the same restrictions as before”, says von Nahmen. This need not always be open censorship; economic conditions can also be problem: “If you can’t make money with the media, it’s difficult to maintain journalistic standards”. The focus of the Academy now therefore is on changing long-term structures; supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the DW Academy now works more closely and on a longer term with local partners.

A good example of the Academy’s approach is Tunisia. Here the self-immolation of a fruit seller in December 2010 and the subsequent mobilization via social networks led to a revolution. Shortly thereafter, the DW Academy was on the spot. It met with local “journalists who have never been allowed to work as journalists”, recalls von Nahmen. The questions were numerous: How to report on free elections? What laws do we need? Do we need a completely different kind of journalist? The DW Academy played a part at all these levels, from media training for election reporting and advising on the design of media laws to close cooperation with the country’s most respected university for journalism. “All these processes take time, but only in this way can a new generation of journalists eventually grow up”, says von Nahmen.

Trained for leading positions in their home countries

The student Daniel Márquez wants to be part of this new generation in his native country. Since 2007, there has been a public service broadcaster in Ecuador. That is where he wants to work in future. When here in Germany he has time to watch TV, he likes best watching documentary films on Phoenix or ZDF. But he doesn’t have a lot of free time on his hands, because his two-year programme of studies is crowded. The curriculum is a combination of the subjects media development, management, journalism and communication science. His fellow students are all young journalists or media managers who have already had professional experience in their home countries and are now working towards chances of advancement. Every year about 30 applicants from all over the world are accepted at the DW Academy.

Even harder fought-for are internships at the DW Academy. Every year it trains ten interns from Germany and ten international interns. The selection criteria are demanding: applicants for an international internship must speak at least one of the Deutsche Welle programme languages as well as a native speaker and also demonstrate very good knowledge of German. In addition, they should also have completed a university course of studies or graduated from a school of journalism and have satisfactory practical experience. Each year usually more than 300 young journalists apply to the DW Academy. Of these, about 100 reach the second round and then have to submit an example of their reportage within two weeks. In the third and final round, 20 applicants are invited to Germany. After personal selection interviews, ten young journalists finally make it to an internship.

Probably nowhere else in Germany is journalistic training as international as it is at the DW Academy. And when Daniel Márquez looks back on the time he has spent so far at the Academy, he realizes that he has acquired more than merely specialized knowledge: “Through my colleagues, I’ve got to know practically the whole world”.