Journalism between Politics, Propaganda and Prison 

This year’s M100 Young European Journalists Workshop gathered together 23 young journalists aged between 18 and 26 in Potsdam. In an intensive six-day workshop they examined the use of propaganda instruments and the manipulation and intimidation of journalists, as well as the effects on the reputation of the media, on the population at large, and on the relationships between the countries. The participants came from the countries of the Eastern Partnership: Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The goal was to teach participants how propaganda works and what its objectives are, how it can be recognised, how to verify information (including within social networks), and how journalists can defend themselves against propaganda and manipulation by governments and lobbyists. The participants shared their own experiences on propaganda. They discussed common threats and influences on their own work. They also analyzed the way that propaganda functions and is deployed in their own countries. The workshop has been taught by the political scientist, journalist and Co-Director of the Institute for Media and Communications Policy, Dr. Leonard Novy, and the journalist, author and award winning filmmaker Christian Stahl.

1.    The road ahead
After a welcome dinner on Saturday, September 12, the participants started the first day on Sunday at the Media Innovation Centre MIZ in Potsdam-Babelsberg with a brief introduction round, followed Workshopby an overview of the week. The aim of the morning was to figure out the dimensions of propaganda by using “Agree or Disagree”, a game to summarise and point out key aspects: journalistic objectivity as an idealistic concept, collision of corporate interests and propaganda in the media (especially in state-owned media), facts and their interpretation, evaluation of the fact, journalism as a business and an art of persuasion, selective journalism as a means of propaganda etc.

In order to differentiate journalism from propaganda it is necessary to listen actively in interviews. Before the interview practice, the group was given exercises to feel more relaxed in front of the camera. The task of the following interview training was to start with one interview question and develop four further questions by listening to the interviewee and react to what was said. Conclusion of the first day and yet an outlook on the days to come was that it is essential to find a workable definition of propaganda to answer the questions:

●     Where are we at the moment on an international scale?
●     What is the relation of Western democracies and propaganda?
●     Which are possible shapes of propaganda?

2.    Shapes, role and relevance of propaganda
The aim of the second day was to define different shapes and relevancies of propaganda and to define its role in the Western media. Key questions were named: What do we know about propaganda? How does it work? Which technique was used by the Nazis and what has changed nowadays? To initiate a discussion the trainers started with a short video about propaganda in Nazi Germany by propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels . Then the “Erdogan Spot” of Turkey's prime minister was shown to illustrate an example in the field of digital propaganda and the manipulation in the age of communicative abundance.. The participants were invited to express their own opinion about different interpretations of propaganda and public relations definitions. The goal was to differentiate PR and propaganda, two subjects which both are closely related to communication. Divided in groups, the students had to find out the characteristics, similarities and differences of propaganda and PR, how they are related to each other, what difficulties journalists face in a relationship with PR managers, and why and if PR is actually needed.

The freedom of press report of “Reporters without Borders” served as an example to discuss the state of media freedom all over the world and to define factors that limit freedom of press:
●    governments
●    terror organizations
●    criminal gangs
●    drug mafia

The students discussed democracy value systems on the examples of different countries to also shine a light on propaganda of Western countries.
A second group talked about the relevance of propaganda and asked: is there really nothing to worry about in Western democracies? The group presented examples of how boulevard media covered the Greece crisis news, how Italian media covered the Greek crisis and how in comparison boulevard magazine BILD covers the Greek crisis.
Also it was discussed how the European media covers news of the recent refugee crisis. The attack on Charlie Hebdo served as an example to ask “who used Charlie Hebdo as a tool for propaganda?”

The third group has provided a presentation about shapes of propaganda presenting examples from their own countries.

●    Georgia and the case of the  Fake TV programme “Qronika” on Imedi TV
●    Examples of Russian propaganda in Ukraine (videos)
●    Selective/one sided reporting
●    Examples of Russian propaganda (video examples)

After the end of the presentations, Armenian participant Aharon Hayrapetyan showed a video, which he especially developed for the workshop. The video shows propaganda examples on the Electronic Maidan and Kremlin, in Ukraine and in Western media and achieved wide appreciation among the class.

The last part of the packed day was dedicated to questioning “the truth” with an interview training by Christian Stahl, who explained how to prepare for an interview and the importance of body language. As an example of a critical interview, Jeremy Paxman’s interview with Bill Gates in the News Night was shown, followed by a discussion.

3.    Excursion to Berlin

Inside Google's holy halls Google 2
Dr. Ralf Bremer, Google’s spokesperson and political PR manager, welcomed the participants at the Google Office in Berlin. Bremer told them Google’s mission was "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" (Larry Page & Sergey Brin, 1998). He discussed how Google works, the research and education programme “Digital News Initiative” and answered the questions of the participants. The students gathered snapshots into the internal life of the company, its policy, projects and perspectives to explore the premises, and, last but not least, try special Google treats (cookies, ice cream and chocolate).

Axel Springer Academy
Rudolf Porsch, managing director of the Axel Springer Akademy, provided an insight about their working methods and values.
He explained new media tools of Axel Springer publishing house, introduced in order to adapt to global high-tech world. He called it “multichannel strategy”, explaining how to tailor content via trial and error on the example of BILD. Porsch was not afraid to admit that BILD deliberately uses provocative headlines, critical notions and bright pictures. He motivated it by “trying to be close to the truth and maintain pluralistic democracy and provoking debates”, though the main reason, sounding within the context, is “we need to sell well and earn money”.  ASA
Leon Engländer, Die Welt columnist and referent of the editor-in-chief, describes his edition as kind of an opposition for BILD - “classic, traditional, quality journalism”. In 2003 Die Welt was the first German newspaper, which published articles online first, whenever ready. Still Die Welt doesn’t draw a line between online journalists and “classic” ones - everybody is regarded as equally professional. Key question for them, says Engländer, is “what will still be interesting tomorrow morning?”.  Furthermore, the students learned some good strategies on how to make their own media content work better online.
Afterwards, an open discussion with Anna Honcharyk from the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center and the trainees of Axel Springer followed. The very constructive discussion on propaganda and how to manage the crisis, created some serious debates subsequently, specifically confronting the Russian versus Ukrainian propaganda, a topic which always creates anxiety.

4.    Practice day: what do boxing and propaganda have in common?
On Wednesday the trainers started with an unusual task: he invited the participants to take part in a boxing fight with him. The important take-away from this sporty activity is that similar to boxing, a good journalists anticipates, interacts and listens. The right technique is crucial. Propaganda only uses strengths but as in boxing, strength only is not yet a winning factor.
The second part consisted in developing strategies for a good interview, since some of the students were going to interview some of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquiums participants. The training covered the most important aspects regarding information goals, Three-Act-Scheme, conflict and turning points, narrative instruments and construction. Exercises in groups were used to deepen theoretic aspects. The day concluded with the task to shoot a short propaganda movie to apply the new gained knowledge.

5.    M100 Sanssouci Colloquium
On the 5th day the young journalists took part at the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium. The international forum brings together (mainly) 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 international affairs and to promote democracy and freedom of expression and speech. As a modern-day East-West bridge-builder, the Colloquium fosters media relations and not only exposes differences but also common ground in the challenges faced by media from different cultures and regions.

YEJ PraesentationYEJ Interview klYEJ Logowand klein

Against the background of the 70th anniversary of Potsdam Agreement, the 50 top-class participants discussed the current situation in Europe in three sessions.

The goal of the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium is to create a constructive, intersectoral dialogue between representatives of politics, the media, journalism, relevant organisations and Internet companies on the heritage of the Potsdam Agreement and the prospects for a liberal democratic Europe in an increasingly blurred world order.
The young journalists were involved in the conference by interviewing participants during the breaks, getting in touch with and talk to them.
In the evening, German Foreign Minister Dr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier delivered the political keynote speech at the conclusion of this year's M100 Sanssouci Colloquium in Potsdam. Following the keynote speech, the M100 Media Award was presented to the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. The award was accepted from the editor-in-chief of the magazine, Gérard Biard. The writer and defence lawyer Ferdinand von Schirach delivered the laudatory speech.

6. Alfred Herrhausen Society conference “Denk ich an Deutschland …”
On the last day, all participants of the M100 YEJ were invited to attend the conference of the Alfred Herrhausen Society in conjunction with the FAZ in Berlin: ‘Denk ich an Deutschland’ (‘When I think of Germany…’). There the young journalists met again a lot of the senior editors from the M100 Sanssouci Colloquium and could follow keynote speeches of the German historican Heinrich August Winkler, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen, Jackson Janes (Johns Hopkins University), and Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, amongst others..


The M100 Young European Journalists Workshop is an initiative of the city of Potsdam and Potsdam Media International e.V. In 2015 it was supported by the Federal Foreign Office and the National Endowment for Democracy. It was sponsored by Google and took place in co-operation with the Media Innovation Centre and the European Youth Press.

*The summary has been co-written by Isabel Gahren, Olha Novikova, Catalina Russu, Stanislav Sokolov, Mariam Gogishvili, Mari Gasparyan, Cristina Gurez, Olha Konsevych, Tako Svanidze, Olesya Yaremchuk, and Sophie Schriever.