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Sanssouci Colloquium
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Working Sessions

The M100 East-West Media Bridge
The M100 Sanssouci Colloquium was conceived by a group of leading media and public figures as a unique forum which would bring together Europe’s top editors, commentators and media owners (print, broadcasting and internet) alongside key public figures to assess the role and impact of the media in European and international affairs. The initiative has evolved over the past three years into a major annual gathering which takes place at the historic palaces Sanssouci Park in Potsdam, Germany.

Building on Potsdam’s historic role as a locus for dialogue between East and West, and in the face of increasingly complex and important challenges emanating from Russia, the Middle and Far East, the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium has been developed into a significant ‘East-West Media Bridge’. The colloquium has become an annual meeting point of media and public figures from across some of today’s most sensitive geo-political and communal fault lines. With the media becoming an ever more crucial factor in the shaping of national and international public opinion, M100 brings together some of the most senior media figure from across the ‘East’ and ‘West’ alongside a sprinkling of significant ‘newsmakers’. The Colloquium aims to foster cross-continental media relations, exposing not only differences, but also commonalities in the challenges faced by media from different cultures and geographies.

This year we are inviting participants from Russia, Central Asia and the Caucasus to join colleagues from across Europe to assess their understanding and portrayal of some of the major issues of contemporary common concern: including the future orientation of these regions, the challenge of terrorism, energy security and the rise of the ‘East’.

The East-West Media Bridge in 2008:
Shiftig Spheres of Influence and the Future of Eurasia? What Role will the Media play?

Structured in three working sessions and a public plenary session, the Colloquium will focus on the following overarching questions and issues:

Will there ever be a Eurasia? Convergence vs. conflict and the role of the Media
From EU Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy and NATO to Russia and its Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), and on to the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation: Are alliances for East and Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia an essential safeguard to independence or a source of conflict? The conflict in Georgia: What lessons for the Caucasus countries? For the other former members of the Soviet Union? For NATO? For the West’s relations with Russia? Central Asian Republics: Moving towards China? Energy-rich enough to dictate its own terms between East and West? Are our respective media reflecting the real picture or fuelling an East-West divide?

The Western Media Model in decline? Is it the end of the West’s claimed Monopoly on Standards?
Is there a ‘Western’ Media Agenda? Are the Western media ‘distorting’ their reporting of Russian affairs? Central Asia: A blind spot for Western media? What incentives would generate more comprehensive reporting? Western media: can they sustain their claim to represent and set universal standards of free speech in journalism? How have they faired in their reporting of terrorism? Ownership and Control: Government vs. Private Ownership - which serves media standards better?

The rise of the East: Good or bad for the media?
What is top of the agenda in the ‘Eastern’ media?
Does the West matter at all anymore? How are regional dynamics reported? Who owns Eurasia’s media? Censorship, self-censorship and other constraints on the media: are governments the worst culprits? Are private owners less intrusive? As the centre of economic gravity shifts towards the East, will the practises and values associated with Western media follow suit? Where is the line between legitimate political opposition and incitement to terrorism? Can the media do more to prevent a blurring of these lines?

Plenary Session: From West to East – Are the Media united by professional Challenges or divided by political Realities?
The panel led plenary session, chaired by Nik Gowing (BBC World), will focus on two key issues, first on the implications of the conflict in Georgia both in the former member countries of the Soviet Union and also for the wider geo-political aspects of East-West relations. One question to be answered is the influence that press coverage has had on the conflict in Georgia and on the search for solutions. This leads on to the second major issue for the plenary session: media freedom as one of the fundamental characteristics of democracy at a time when terrorism is a worldwide concern. Does the fight against terrorism justify censorship of subversive material? And where is the fine line between freedom of the media and censorship? A further issue for the plenary is to look at countries in transition to democracy and how governments can be convinced of the case for a free media.

Leading media figures will briefly outline and discuss how they convey and interpret these issues from their various vantage points. The working sessions will encourage frank discussions and the plenary session panel, composed of well known public figures from across Eastern and Western Europe and Central Asia. The plenary debate which is opened to a wider public, will be followed by a keynote speech by Lord Owen, former UK Foreign Secretary, and the award of the M100 Sanssouci Prize.

M100 Colloquium – East-West Media Bridge 2008: Format
Reception 4th September
For working session participants and guests from Berlin are invited to attend a reception and buffet dinner to be held at the Resort Schwielowsee from 7.30pm onwards.

The Colloquium 5th September
A series of focused working sessions, with participation limited to some sixty figures in total, will begin at 9am. This will be followed in the afternoon by a panel- led debate at the baroque theatre in the Neues Palais to which a larger audience will be invited.

M100 Media Prize Ceremony 5th September
Each year a Prize is awarded to an individual who has dedicated their lives to building inter-communal and international relations. In 2006, Bernard Kouchner was awarded in a ceremony opened with an address by German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The 2007 meeting welcomed German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble as keynote speaker, and Live Aid initiator Bob Geldof received the M100 Media Prize.

M100 Gala Dinner 5th September
The conference will be concluded by the annual M100 Gala Dinner at the premises of Sanssouci Palace.

Organisers and Partners
As part of an annual series of events – Medienwoche Berlin-Brandenburg – the Colloquium and the preceding workshops are being co-organised by the state capital Potsdam and the London-based Institute for Strategic Dialogue.