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Focus Media: The Right to Access to Information [Die Welt im Wandel: Agenda 2030]


 Speaker McKew



 Moderator Schellpeper


On the 17th of January 2018, the lecture series “Die Welt im Wandel” reconvened with presentations and a following panel discussion making “Focus Media: The Right to Access to Information” a subject of discussion. The speakers of the evening, Quinn McKew and Patrick Benning were able to share their in-depth expertise regarding press freedom to the interested audience.

After a short introduction by the host of the evening, Almuth Schellpeper, senior lecturer at Deutsche Welle Akademie, Quinn McKew took the stage. Quinn McKew Deputy Executive Director at Article 19, an international human rights NGO concerned with freedom of expression and information, briefly described the  obstacles that were to overcome in order to secure the inclusion of access to information in the Sustainable Development Goals. As McKew was part of the  SDG negotiations in New York, she was able to give some background information about the negotiations and its dynamics.

When it comes to press freedom and the SDGs for her it’s a half way victory, because on the one side press freedom isn’t specifically mentioned, but on the other side at least the access to information is part of SDG 16.10. Taking a look back, the Millennium Development Goals were a big disappointment: a lack of transparency and the fact that the right of access to information was not mentioned in the text were the key failings of the MDGs, that led to their insufficient implementation, McKew explained.

Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislaton and international agreements. SDG 16.10

The first step in the negotiation process was a high-level panel of eminent persons by the US secretary general to make recommendations for what should be in the ultimate sustainable development goals. The final document of that panel included potential goals, which led to the final SDG 16.10: Ensure public access to information and protect fundamental freedoms, in accordance with national legislaton and international agreements.

But to get to this point it was a "really long and torturing process" and lot of the decisions that were made, “literally happened in the last 24 hours”, despite a two year process. McKew explained, that in the UN, the process, that worked on the goal’s definition was called the 'Open Working Group Process', which was very unique in the UN-System, due to its open society approach that allowed Article 19 and other organisations to be part of the negotiation process. According to McKew, this approach had a positive impact on the agreement and the inclusion of the right of access to information.

That followed she demonstrated the highs and lows of the two year process. At one point goal 16 was even removed entirely from the document that was being negotiated. During the final night when only "unfettered access to public information" was part of the goal, negotiator f rom the EU, United States, Thailand, Timor-Leste and Mexico took an unequivocal stand for the inclusion of press freedom. So at least the fundamental freedoms are now part of goal 16.10.

The second speaker of the evening, Patrick Benning, Country Manager Myanmar, Deutsche Welle Akademie, mentioned that contrary to his expectations, his report on Myanmar's situation regarding freedom of press could not be positive. He then highlighted the ongoing conflict between its government and military on the one hand and the ethnic minority of the Rohingya on the other: more than 600.000 Rohingya were forced out of the country of Myanmar.

Although media coverage could increase pressure on the government and would therefore imporve the Rohingya’s situation, journalists are still insecure to openly address the conflict due to lack of protection and the risk of becoming a target themselves.

In his speech Benning also described the rise of access to information: The 7Day News Journal enjoys exceptional success and is the most popular product, especially online with more than 18 Million subscriber on facebook. Facebook is the “media megatrend” in Myanmar. People, who never had the chance to buy a newspaper or to own a television are now connected, so Benning.

At the start of the following discussion Quinn McKew, asked about a possible support by Hollywood, praised the Community to Protect Journalists (CPJ), which was rewarded at the Golden Globes this year. Hollywood is able to draw attention to  what is actually happening in the United States, in times Donald Trump is responsible for a crisis regarding press freedom, as McKew stressed.

In another question Almuth Schellpeper asked about the local citizens and their awareness of the SDGs and especially the goal 16.10. in Myanmar. Patrick Benning doesn’t believe they are aware at all, even among the journalists. Neither journalists were used to asking questions nor ministries were ready to answer these questions. So there is the need for regulation, for legislation, but also the need for the environment, that can actually deal with a legislation, Benning told. Quinn McKew added that generally people around the world are still not very aware of the SDGs.

To change that, on the 6th of February the lecture series continues with “Fokus Wir: Auf uns alle kommt es an.”

  • For our Social Media summary, read our Storify.
  • Visitor and participant Jan-Frederic Kuhlmann shared his own brilliant storify on "Focus Media".

In cooperation with:
logo GIZ.jpg DW Akademie
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