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Sanssouci Colloquium
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Dear Federal Chancellor,
Mr Westergaard,
Mr Gauck,
Lord Weidenfeld,
ladies and gentlemen,

As Lord Mayor of the Federal Capital of Potsdam, it is my pleasure to welcome you to the sixth M100 Media Award ceremony. Since 2005, Potsdam has been hosting the event with the generous support of many partners and sponsors. The initial idea was brought into being as part of our application to become Cultural Capital 2010. Looking back at the past six gatherings, I can say in all modesty that the Colloquium has certainly met the requirements of a European Cultural Capital. It was of particular importance to us, that Potsdam’s advantages – the unique cultural landscape; a cosmopolitan, young centre of research mixed with a historical flair – will stimulate an extraordinary dialogue between the most important European opinion leaders.

During the past years, the M100 board managed to attract renowned media professionals who significantly contributed to the success of this event; also in this year. On numerous occasions, your support honourable members of the advisory board, has been of great assistance to us and we are much obliged. The successful cooperation is proven by the impressive turn-out of 75 high-profile participants from 16 different countries.

I would also like to cordially introduce one of the founding fathers and a substantial supporter, Lord Weidenfeld. His presence has guaranteed the high quality of all previous events. A very warm welcome to you, George!

Dear ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to award the M100 Media Prize for the sixth time today. The award is designed to honour individuals who have left famous footprints in our history. This year, consistent with the topic freedom of the press, I am very pleased that we are honouring Kurt Westergaard as a person who has become a symbol for the significance of freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Regardless of one’s individual stance to the cartoon it needs to be a maxim that the threat or the use of violence must never censor the free expression of opinions. The fact that Kurt Westergaard is subjected to a higher level of security than the American Foreign Minister indicates that limits have by far been exceeded.
This is the point where the award is sending a clear signal.

Ladies and gentlemen, freedom of the press and freedom of expression are inseparably entwined and as such indispensable for democracy. They are the base of a free and self-determined society. Thus, it is each and everyone’s responsibility to be vigilant and counter any attempts limiting these rights. Perhaps, some of you might find it amusing that being a politician I plea for freedom of the press. However, for me it is an indispensable value, despite occasionally causing difficult discussions.
But as long as editors-in-chief safeguard quality journalism and prevent it from succumbing to economical pressures, our democracy and society will see a thriving relationship between the press and politicians.

Controversy stimulates social discourse. Thilo Sarrazin’s recent, polarising theses regarding migration and the development of society provide an interesting example. Personally, I find the style of Thilo Sarrazin’s statements alienating, but to quote Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The public debate, not least in the media, has distinctively shown that freedom of the press and freedom of speech enabled a public discourse about this important issue. I hope populist opinions can be exposed as such and we can strengthen general acceptance crucial for social cohesion.
Furthermore, I would like to firmly refute the impression that the debate is lead at the expense of a religion and its followers. To quote the Prussian King Frederick II, “Religions must all be tolerated and everyone must find his salvation in his own way, as long as none of them derogates the other.”

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure for me to welcome Federal Chancellor Dr. Merkel for the second time at the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium.
It is a special honour that you, dear Chancellor Merkel, will hold the main speech on the subject of freedom of the press. Welcome and thank you very much!

But before, I would like to introduce Christopher Walker. He is Director of Studies at the organisation Freedom House based in New York. Freedom House promotes the concept of liberal democracy all over the world and annually assesses – similarly to Reporters Without Borders - the state of freedom of the press in the world.
Christopher Walker is head of a team of analysts and researchers, focusing on different topics, including freedom of the press. His articles on press freedom and democracy issues have appeared in a wide range of publications, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Die Welt, and The Moscow Times. Today, Mr Walker will provide you with a short summary of the conference and outline the state of freedom of the press in Europe.

Before you join me in welcoming Mr. Walker, I would like to send my special thanks to our kind supporters this year, notably Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, the German Foreign Ministry and our sponsor Air Berlin, as well as the cooperation partners Reporters Without Borders, the Prussian Palaces and Gardens
Foundation Berlin-Brandenburg, the Federal State of Brandenburg and

And now: Welcome Christopher Walker!



  by Jann Jakobs
  by Christopher Walker
  by Angela Merkel
  by Joachim Gauck
  by Kurt Westergaard