‘Journalism is all about trust’

April 13, 2019

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INGRID Mueller speaks at the press club on Friday.—White Star
INGRID Mueller speaks at the press club on Friday.—White Star

KARACHI: Good journalism matters. It’s all about trust. If everything is in order then you can lead your reader to a huge amount of information. To be a journalist is an important, responsible and complicated job. Think before you become one because it’s a privilege to have access to cases that others don’t.

This was the argument given by Ingrid Mueller, senior editor at Der Tagesspiegel, Berlin, as she rounded off her talk on ‘Media Landscape in Germany’ at the Karachi Press Club on Friday evening.

Ms Mueller said the first newspaper in Germany was printed in the 16th century. Today the biggest newspaper market in Europe is Germany, and number five in the world. More than 70 per cent of people in Germany now use the internet, but when it comes to news, they have trust in the newspapers. Der Tagesspiegel was the first German newspaper after WWII. It is the leading media in the capital because the decision makers read it. It is published daily and also has its presence on social media (Twitter, Facebook, etc). She also showed images of the newspaper, its newsroom and some important news items published in recent times.

If you know it’s fake news, don’t publish it, says senior German journalist

Ms Mueller said when it comes to freedom of the press in her country, they call the press the fourth power and watchdog. The German constitution has given powers to the press. There’s a press law and press council in the country. Article 5 of the constitution says that the country has to have freedom of the press, and no censorship. Journalists have rights in Germany, but if something goes wrong either in print or online they have to tell “who’s responsible”. For the last few years Germany also has a freedom of information law.

Underlining the duties of the press, Ms Mueller said it must respect the privacy of other people. If you want to take a picture of someone, you need to have that person’s permission first. As a journalist, one needs to make sure “who’s talking to you and why”, because it [the matter being discussed] may have to do with someone’s or some company’s personal interest. “Never mix journalism with public relations or advertisement. Never mix news and opinion.” Protect the rights of victims and potential offenders [suspects, unless proven guilty by a court of law]. If you make a mistake, tell your readers. You also have to protect your colleagues (journalists), let’s say, from sending them to volatiles places; always think about who to send. “We should also care for ourselves.” If you know it’s fake news, don’t publish. Don’t invent a story.

Ms Mueller said it was in 1956 that the press council in Germany was set up to defend freedom of the press. The council provides guidelines and recommendations [to journalists]. The press code was developed in the early 1970s. It has principles for journalists and publishers. It gets updated on a regular basis since now there’s online journalism too and if there’s a court ruling, etc.

Ms Mueller said selection of pictures is extremely important for the newspapers. In that context she showed a few photos to the audience that were sensitive in nature, such as the one of the dead Syrian refugee child on the Mediterranean seashore and of the person who attacked Berlin in Dec 2016. She pointed out that her newspaper debates extensively about such sensitive images vis-à-vis their impact on society [what can or cannot be shown].

Ms Mueller then talked about her newspaper’s attempt to find out “what the readers [are] looking and paying for” and in that regard mentioned a newsletter that gives deep insights into important issues.

Summing up the talk Ms Mueller said good journalism matters. It is all about trust.

The talk, which was an interactive one because later the attendees were to exchange ideas with the speaker, was organised by the German Consulate in Karachi in collaboration with the KPC.

Published in Dawn, April 13th, 2019