Category: English Articles

Fake not Fact – Who wants reality to disappear, and why?

This essay was created for the catalogue of the art-exhibition NEWSFLASH in Nuremberg, organized in cooperation between the Kunsthalle Nürnberg and the Kunsthaus, which misses how digital (dis)information works and what manipulative power it can unfold. What skills do we need to deal with this appropriately and critically? The artists assembled in the exhibition are also looking for answers to this and other questions with their works.

“It’s all fake!” Meanwhile, this English word is being used everywhere to decimate another person’s opinion with a single blow. Even Donald Trump berates reporters from CNN and other media1 as representatives of “fake news”, although he himself is one of those repeatedly spreading false information via Twitter. But to return to the actual meaning: in this context “fake” means incorrect information. That is, the deliberate dissemination of manipulated news and intentionally false reports in order to influence those addressed or to do damage to a group or a single individual. Fake has more than one shape: sometimes it is a completely false, freely invented item of information or pure speculation – as in the case of conspiracy theories regarding 9/11. But far more often, fake combines facts that are actually true, e. g. about a terror attack  in Europe, with false information – about the perpatrator, the victims, the course of events. Contexts are deconstructed by repeatedly spreading old information as “current” once again, or media reports are placed in an entirely different context of meaning. Among our neighbours, the effects of disinformation campaigns online are even more clearly discernible than they are here: The British “Yes!” to Brexit. The best ever result for the extreme right’s Front National in the first round of the presidency elections in France: 11.5 million of the 47 million French eligible to vote voted for Marine Le Pen.


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Demonstration of the rightis extremist Front National – today the name of the party changed to Rassemblement National;  the party is distributing its propaganda and xenophob messages vial digital media

Here, it is possible to see what destructive power digital disinformation may unfold. In the USA every second item on Twitter is already such a manipulative, incorrect news item – in Germany, as yet, it is “only” every fifth tweet. But the creation of opinion in this country is facing the onset of such development3, for which we are unprepared – either as voters or media users, citizens, journalists or artists.  A Threat to Democratic Debate: The Echo Chamber Effect A fundamental change in the public sphere of information and the creation of opinion is underway. It entails great opportunities, as knowledge is now available to all via the Net, independent of place and time. But the creation of opinion online also entails great risks, for facts here are being manipulated, challenges we face politically. And so, for example, the parties represented in the Bundestag attempted to keep provocative themes to a minimum in election campaigning. Like the demand for more direct participation by citizens, or the urgent question discussed with such controversy by many people, of whether and how we can achieve the integration of refugees. Complex decisions, which touch upon the framework of values in our society – like “marriage for all” or the “online search regulations” – were enforced in a hurried procedure before the end of the legislation period, without much parliamentary or social discussion. But if there is no discussion in parliament and the media, others will take over – and they do so primarily online. For two years now, I have exposed myself daily to the self-styled “alternative media”, have been a member of public and restricted Facebook groups relating to the AfD and Pegida, following the sources of this digital counterpublic on Twitter, receiving newsletters, and watching – on the “hidden” servers of rightwing extremist and potentially violent nerds – how they produce radically right-wing tweets and memes or construct pro-AfD campaigns for social media. I have conducted research in the echo chambers of media true to Erdogan, and trolls, and I have perused disinformation disseminated by the Russians. Extremist populists find opportunity online to spread their information entirely without filters and without troublesome questioners or presenters. In many places, they use the possibilities of the Net far more purposefully than the classic people’s parties or media. They successfully address the growing number of people in our country who are turning away from the traditional parties and media, and have long been operating in their own informational sphere, which they call “alternative”, “uncensored” and “democratic”. Over the period of my research it has been possible to see clearly: all these actors and sources have increased their scope of influence online. And they make no secret of their digital information strategy; their strategies for digital propaganda and disinformation are published online and are easy to find. Stories from a Country Poised on the Edge The heart of this communication is stories arousing fear and outrage, using artificial and martial concepts. A communication that discredits – using its own language and narratives – our democratic institutions, our model of an open society and diversity of opinion, and also sows doubt in the functioning of our polity as a whole.

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Anti-migrant-demonstration of rightist extremists and critical citizens organised by the activist group “Pro Chemnitz” and some AfD groups – campaigning for the demonstration was mainly distributed on social media 

The overall framework, the stage for all these narratives, is the downfall of Germany. Censorship, limitations of citizens’ rights and persecution of those who think differently are, following the current of reports in my right-wing newsfeed, on the order of the day in Germany. It seems that little value is placed on human rights, freedom of the press, or democracy in our country. For they are being wantonly and deliberately restricted – and not by just anyone, but by the government and the liberal establishment. Dramas happen on this stage: there are brutal dictators and an oppressed people. Perpetrators and victims. Foreign hordes. And upstanding saviours of the freedom of opinion. Conspiracies and plotting are on the daily agenda. The roles are attributed quite clearly. This creates excitement  and people enjoy sharing it. They are stories that report on catastrophes, so underlining the sense among users that they are being disadvantaged, overrun by foreigners, robbed by the political elite, in short: they have been degraded to second-class citizens. Thereby, these narratives are all about decisive themes: about our daily existence, peace in our country, and identity. “The state is failing, imposing a state of emergency on Germany.” “Martial law rules.” The stories are concerned with the “chancellor dictatorship”, “state terror”, or the “state of emergency”. There is talk of a failing, weak state, in which the “enemies of the people”, “traitors” or “system parties” govern the people in a dictatorial manner. Another badgering narrative is that of civil war being brought to the country by a foreign horde: the story of the “great invasion”, whereby the “rapefugees” and “asylum demanders” are swamping Germany in violence and terror and bringing the “sex-jihad” to the country. Disinformation as a Constitutive Means for Extremists and Populists The narratives of the extremists and populists are all about moods and emotions rather than facts. Fake is a constitutive means for populists and extremists, for they aim at emotional stories to win over and keep their supporters: with victims and perpetrators, obvious enemies and of course with heroes. For some, that is the election victor Trump, who is acclaimed on the media platforms of right-wing populists all over Europe. For others, the jihadist terrorists of Paris, who roamed the French capital murdering people for several hours in November 2015. The violent members of the three teams of IS terrorists armed with Kalashnikovs and explosive belts ignited bombs and fired at street bars. 130 people died, 89 of them in Bataclan concert hall. But the violent participants and murderers are lauded in videos made by the IS and disseminated online. These are stories to share, like, comment on. Stories inviting us to join in. By means of the Net, I can be there “live”, in real time. The result is the development of a space of participation and experience, in which every user can become involved with little effort, in which everyone is important!


Discussion with the german artists Monika Huber and Wiebke Elzel about the effect and impact of Echochambers and digital Desinformation in the Nurnberg Exhibititon in Oktober 2018 
This is true of the information and disinformation campaigns of state-directed foreign media, financed by many millions of euros, in Russia and Turkey, as well as the extremists of the IS. Different though their aims may be individually – what they have in common is a declaration of “information war” on the democratic order in our country, on liberal political ideas, a willingness for integration and
the openness of our society, and the fact that they are waging this war primarily digitally in order to assert their interests in Germany or to win over new supporters. And that they ingeniously exploit the functions of the Net – a vast range of influence and frequency – to deliberately address specific users. Radicalization through the Net What does the 17-year-old Islamist terrorist who attacked people on a regional train near
Würzburg4 have in common with the extreme rightwing demonstrators in Bautzen?5 What unites the demonstrating Russian-Germans as they protest about the disappearance of 13-year-old Lisa with
supporters of the extreme right Identitarian Movement, who climbed up the Brandenburg Gate and rolled out a banner there in protest against immigration? Not a lot, at first glance.

But they all source their information on the Net. They plan their actions and form their political attitudes online, even though their political positions and interests are totally different. They have been radicalized via the Net, where they are also connected to operators who are disseminating radical misanthropic messages: extremists – like the terrorist organization Islamic State –, who propagate violence and recruit young men prepared to use violence for acts of terrorism like the one in Würzburg or the attack on the Christmas market in Berlin. Extreme right-wing actors – from the NPD to the “Reichsbürger” to the Identitarian Movement – and right-wing populists in the sphere of Pegida and the AfD, who reject people for their religion or race and do not wish to see human rights being applied equally to all – that is, independent of race, skin colour, and national or social origins. What concerns our society is reflected on and spread online. And there are obvious links between what is being spread in the way of information and disinformation – and what happens, politically and socially, in our country. This explains why so many people with Turkish roots in our country affirm the undemocratic changes to the constitution being made by Erdogan. It explains why young men in the midst of our society are becoming Islamist terrorists. It answers the question why refugee hostels are being set on fire in the very regions where there are only a few refugees.
What begins as a tweet or post online often leads to practical violence: murder threats against MPs in the German Bundestag after the resolution on Armenia, for example. The deliberate cases of aggression in Dresden during the celebrations of the Day of German Unity on 3rd October 2016, Police protection for MPs due to their critical attitude towards Turkey. Massive threats against the liberal Islamic academic Lamya
Kaddor, which led to her withdrawal from active teaching. There is a measurable growth in politically motivated crimes: a fivefold increase in predominantly right-wing motivated attacks on asylum-seekers’ accommodation6 when many refugees came to Germany.

How Language Changes Reality 
Does language create reality? Not directly.But language changes our view of reality – and thus our opinions and attitudes.7 “We ought to be allowed to say that,” as we hear regularly from the ranks of the AfD. Provocations and breaches of taboo are an essential part of its communication, key aggressive concepts such as “lying press”, “mob of migrants”, “traitors to the people” are constructed online and then
transferred to political discussion. “Mainstream media”, “Rautenfrau”, “migrant disaster”, “old parties” – all terms that are used with great matter-of-factness when one keeps one’s ears open in the supermarket around the corner or on the underground train, terms that may be used in conversations with neighbours or acquaintances – and they all originate from discourses online. Such terms are representative
of the agenda of the New Right and its groups. They question the functioning and stability of the democratic system, and on Twitter these attitudes turn into hashtags like #stopinvasion, #remigration, #refugeesNotwelcome, #MerkelhatBlutandenHaenden, #KanzlerinderSchande. Successful agenda setting means getting key aggressive terms into people’s heads so that they stick and can be activated easily.

They have an effect on how we think about a subject. They are not neutral terms – they all evaluate. They may add value to something (resistance fighter = member of the AfD or Identitarian Movement) – or reduce the value of something (system parties, synchronized press). By means of this valuation they connect a subject to an interpretation. It is easy to check what images are linked to which terms. It is enough to insert them into Google image search, where “asylum demanders”, “sexjihad”, “refugee invasion” trigger a flood of images of violent migrants. The phrase “Schlepperkönigin” (queen of trafficking)
leads directly and almost exclusively to images of the Chancellor. The term “traitors to the people” leads to images of government members, ranging from the Chancellor to the Minister of Justice, from the Foreign
Secretary to the Minister of Defence. It even leads to an image in which the heads of the aforementioned individuals are depicted in front of a scaffold. The heading reads: “Please don’t push. Everyone will get a turn.” The search reveals which online images are shared frequently. In this way, we can get an indication of which images have become fixed in the minds of the users.

Catalyser Themes
There are two topics with the effect of fire accelerants in the newsfeeds of my research: acts of terror and migrants. The fatal attack at the Christmas market on Breitscheidplatz in Berlin on 19.12.2016 is exploited by many media platforms of the New Right, and the Epoch Times concludes: “And again, they are all involved in the murders. Politics, media, judicial system, police, do-gooders – all those who have caused and approved such conditions.” The extreme right Identitarian Movement tweeted: “It must be said quite clearly: #Breitscheidplatz happened because Merkel and her cronies allowed the perpetrators into the country.”8 In the comment columns one can read, among other things: “[…] The problem and the reason for this is the ruling clique, high treason against the German people […].”9 The “Patriotic Platform”10,a Facebook group close to the AfD, posted a photomontage picturing Angela Merkel sitting beside the Berlin terrorist Amri in the truck. The headline: “Asylum policy was in the cab with him!” A tasteless satire? After
all, it referred to a fatal terror attack in Germany that cost 12 people their lives. Here, expressions of opinion and false assertions are being merged deliberately to the extent that we can scarcely determine what is
still the reporting of facts and where disinformation begins.

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Migrants are a “trigger-issue” for many speculations, sterotypes and fake information distributed in the echochambers of the rightist mobements all over Europe


Analogue Mass Propaganda also Champions Fake 

Of course, post-factual narratives and propaganda are not merely a 21st-century phenomenon. And although post-factual was not word of the year until 201611, the phenomenon has
existed across all eras. Hannah Arendt wrote impressively on the subject – in very analogue times. She wrote about German society after the collapse of the National Socialist regime, after travelling to
Germany in 1949 and 195012, and noted in regard to the National Socialist dictatorship that every totalitarian regime is dependent on disinformation as a constitutive means:
“Before they seize power and establish a world according to their doctrines, totalitarian movements conjure up a lying world of consistency which is more adequate to the needs of the human mind than reality
itself”. The ideal subjects of totalitarian rule, according to Arendt, are not ideologically convinced National Socialists or Communists but “people for whom the distinctions between fact and fiction […] true and
false no longer exist.” The flight from reality into interpretation, exaggeration, agitation have always been preconditions to all mass propaganda. And so the National Socialists quite intentionally developed
post-factual narratives in the Weimar Republic in order to respond to the deepseated disappointment of many Germans and the sense of damage to their own identity after defeat in World War 1. In 1931, Adolf
Hitler rejected the simple assertion that the modern political and social world was compicated “as wicked propaganda from democrats.”

Instead, National Socialist propaganda offered simple explanations and denied the facts: Parliamentary system? A deceptive façade by which people were deceived and MPs made themselves rich! Democratic
parties? A corrupt crowd! Liberal press? Among National Socialists, it became the “asphalt press” or “Jewish press”. And the term “system parties” had been used during the economic crisis since 1930, referring
to those parties who were waging “a campaign of destruction against their own people”. It cannot be overlooked that the rightwing populists of today are readopting the linguistic phrases and narratives of that
time. This is true in particular of those narratives regarding the community of the people, cultural superiority through race or religion, discrimination of cetain groups across the board, immense inhumanity, and
of the elitist criticism shaping their narratives. In terms of content and language, these are the old keywords and recipes – which is not to say that all AfD voters represent such exteme attitudes.
But there is a fundamental difference between analogue propaganda and digital disinformation: the mass character and frequency with which manipulated information is disseminated online. Disinformation and propaganda today achieve a much greater scope of influence through the Net than at a time when the post-factual was spread via radio, newsreels or the daily press. The number of actors sowing doubts in our democratic system through disinformation, poisoning democratic debate with their language and narratives – and the number of media platforms, groups and forums they use – have multiplied in number. And as a result, so have propaganda and false information.

It is a mistake to ignore this antidemocratic,hate-filled white noise on the Net along with the disinformation circulating online. For it will remain and grow in Germany as well – and this will have practical
consequences for our lives together, our politics,our political and democratic undersstanding. Our handling of it can change, however. The precondition to finding some orientation in this web of fake and fact, truth
and lies, is that we know how to distinguish one from the other. This also involves knowing who is spreading disinformation online and with what interests – and through what narratives, images and linguistic terms it is happening. It is important to take an energetic stand against the misanthropic phrases and group-related inhumanity on the Net, and to reject hate and violence. And we should not give way to pressure to shift the boundaries of the unspeakable. We must not stop comparing and be aware of the boundaries of our own echo chambers, and continue to break through them – to get the full picture, to know the arguments and fears of others. For democracy and the question of what kind of society we wish to live in is also being negotiated on the Net!

This essay is the outcome of two years of investigative research into the spread of disinformation online. The book Fake statt Fakt. Wie Populisten, Bots und Trolle
unsere Demokratie angreifen was published by dtv in summer 2018: “Fake statt Fakt – how Populists, Bots and Trolls are offending our democracy”



Act Digital – Wie Medien in Afrika einen Beitrag zu Demokratie und Entwicklung leisten

Mein neuester Artikel im Springer Buch “CSR und Digitalisierung

Stellen Sie sich ein namenloses Land irgendwo in Afrika vor, in dem Extremisten marodierend umherziehen, Kirchen und Schulen anzünden, Sprengsätze legen, Menschen kidnappen, foltern oder ermorden. Bei Konflikten und Menschenrechtsverletzungen können Medien große Wirkung entfalten – und sie können gezielt die Entwicklung von Gesellschaften fördern. Medienentwicklung ist deshalb von entscheidender Bedeutung, wie die Analyse von Ute Schaeffer zeigt.

Am 14. März 2014 überfielen Boko-Haram-Kämpfer die Giwa-Kaserne in der 500.000 Einwohner großen Stadt Maiduguri im nigerianischen Bundesstaat Borno. Später brachte das Militär die Lage wieder unter Kontrolle. Über 640 Menschen, größtenteils unbewaffnete, wieder gefasste Häftlinge, wurden ermordet. Ein unbekannter Handybesitzer hielt in einem 35 Sekunden langen Video fest, was mit einem der Opfer geschah. Zu sehen ist, wie ein nigerianischer Soldat einen unbewaffneten Mann am helllichten Tag umbringt. Das Video wurde Amnesty International zugespielt. Die nichtstaatliche Organisation konnte den genauen Ort des Vorfalls ermitteln und die Echtheit der Aufnahmen bestätigen. Bei denen handelt es sich laut Christoph Koettl von Amnesty International „lediglich um die Spitze des Eisbergs”.[1] Dieser nutzergenerierte Inhalt, der durch die Auswertung von Metadaten und eine Inhaltsanalyse[2] sorgfältig überprüft wurde, diente als Grundlage für einen Bericht von Amnesty International über die in Nigeria begangenen Gräueltaten.

Neue Wächter Bürgermedien

Was können, was sollten Medien bei solchen Gewaltsituationen leisten? Bei Konflikten, die regelmäßig auftauchen, wie etwa zwischen ethnischen Gruppen vor den Wahlen in Kenia jetzt aktuell in Burundi oder seit einigen Jahren in Nigeria: Die Situation in diesen Ländern ist fragil, die Konfliktlinien haben sich tief in die Gesellschaft eingebrannt. Leicht können Spannungen zwischen Gruppen eskalieren, wie in Nigeria, dem ressourcenreichen Riesenstaat in Westafrika, der nach innen gekennzeichnet ist durch ein politisches, soziales und religiöses Gefälle zwischen dem Norden und dem Süden. Hassreden und gewaltsame Übergriffe zwischen Moslems und Christen sind dort an der Tagesordnung. Schon ein kleiner Post in Sozialen Medien, ein Kommentar oder eine Karikatur können in einigen Regionen zu Gewaltausbrüchen führen. Bei der Präsidentenwahl 2015 hätten diese Konflikte erneut aufflammen können. Tatsächlich aber war die Wahl in Nigeria ein gutes Beispiel dafür, wie Medien und digitale Informationen zu politischer Verständigung und demokratischer Abstimmung beitragen können. Die Qualität der digitalen Inhalte und die Art ihrer Verbreitung machte hier den entscheidenden Unterschied! Denn die nigerianischen Präsidentschaftswahlen[3] waren ein Erfolg – sowohl für die Journalisten als auch für die Mediennutzer und die Wähler. Schon lange, bevor die Unabhängige Nationale Wahlkommission (INEC) offizielle Ergebnisse verkündete, gaben Freiwillige unter den 700.000 Wahlhelfern die regionalen Ergebnisse ihrer Wahlbüros bekannt. Dank technologieversierter nigerianischer Wähler, die mithilfe von Sozialen Medien über jede Phase der Wahl berichteten, wurde bereits wenige Stunden nach Schließung der Wahllokale deutlich, welchen Vorsprung der All Progressives Congress, die Partei des neu gewählten Präsidenten Muhammadu Buhari, erzielen konnte. In diesem Fall trug die große Zahl an aktiven, gebildeten Mediennutzern zu einem friedlichen, verantwortungsvollen und transparenten Wahlverlauf bei.[4].

Beide Beispiele stammen aus Nigeria, einem Land mit einer der höchsten Internetreichweiten und höchster Internetnutzung[5] in ganz Afrika. Und sie zeigen: Bürgermedien und nutzergenerierte Inhalte haben das Potenzial, die politische Partizipation und das Verantwortungsbewusstsein der Bevölkerung zu fördern und die Überwachung der Menschenrechtslage zu erleichtern. Digitale Kommunikation und digitale Informationen eröffnen neue Wege der Beteiligung an politischen und gesellschaftlichen Prozessen. Sie versetzen die Menschen in die Lage, sich untereinander auszutauschen und zu vernetzen. Zudem bieten sie neue Möglichkeiten, Menschenrechtsverletzungen offenzulegen und auf Vernachlässigung oder Unterdrückung aufmerksam zu machen. Nichtstaatliche Strukturen und Journalisten könnten dieses Potenzial nutzen, indem sie die technischen Neuerungen direkt in ihre Recherchearbeit einbinden. Darüber hinaus ergeben sich durch digitale Kommunikation neue Möglichkeiten, zu lernen und das eigene Wissen zu erweitern. In ihrer grundlegenden Struktur ist digitale Kommunikation breit gefächert. Medienentwicklung befördern, Menschenrechte monitoren und deren Verletzung dokumentieren. Digitale Informationen können demokratische Prozesse begleiten und Entwicklungsthemen der ländlichen Bevölkerung auf die Agenda setzen.

Freiheit der Medien und wirtschaftliche Prosperität hängen zusammen

Es gibt einen messbaren Zusammenhang zwischen Entwicklung, wirkungsvoller Armutsbekämpfung, sozialen Standards und wirtschaftlichem Wachstum – und der Freiheit und Professionalität von Medien. Dafür gibt es gute Beispiele: In der Rangliste von Reporter ohne Grenzen (2015) liegt Namibia auf Platz 17 und damit vor vielen europäischen Ländern. Werfen wir einen Blick auf die Vorreiter in Sachen Pressefreiheit, auf Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, die Komoren und Südafrika,die ihren Medienmarkt entschlossen entwickelt, gestaltet und liberalisiert haben. Diese Länder zeichnen sich durch eine breite Vielfalt an Medienkanälen aus und zählen durchweg zur Gruppe der Länder mit mittlerem Einkommen![6] Doch auch Burkina Faso und Niger sind in der Kategorie „Zufriedenstellend” zu finden – ebenso wie Frankreich, Großbritannien, Spanien und Portugal.

13 weitere afrikanische Staaten, insbesondere im östlichen Teil des Kontinents, haben „erkennbare Probleme”, wenn es um die  Freiheit von Journalisten und Medien geht. Oder sie zählen zu den Regionen, in denen es um die Pressefreiheit schlecht bestellt ist. In dieser Gruppe der Staaten mit starker Zensur und verbreiteter Verfolgung von Journalisten befindet sich ein Großteil der autoritär regierten Länder wie Eritrea (Platz 180), der Sudan (Platz 174), Somalia (Platz 172), Dschibuti (Platz 170), Äquatorialguinea (Platz 167) oder Ruanda (Platz 161).

Schlüsselfaktoren für dynamische Medienentwicklung

Ob Medien Entwicklungen vorantreiben oder vielmehr verlangsamen, hängt von verschiedenen Schlüsselfaktoren ab. Entscheidend ist unter anderem,

  • unter welchen Bedingungen Journalisten arbeiten.
  • welche Kriterien und beruflichen Standards für Inhalte gelten.
  • ob alle Gesellschaftsgruppen Zugang zu Medien haben.
  • ob die Menschen in der Lage sind, die Flut an Informationen zu verarbeiten und zu nutzen.

Über die Probleme von Frauen in den ländlichen Gegenden von Burkina Faso, Mali oder Uganda wird in afrikanischen Medien nur selten berichtet. Und wie viele Berichte über die unzureichende Gesundheitsversorgung in ländlichen Gegenden gibt es? Viele gesellschaftliche Gruppen haben in den nationalen afrikanischen Medien keine Stimme und ihre existenziellen Belange wie Bildung und Gesundheit finden kein Gehör.

Hinzu treten in vielen Ländern offizielle politische oder und inoffizielle gesellschaftliche Tabus. In Uganda werden Schwule und Lesben politisch an den Rand gedrängt und ignoriert oder sogar von den Medien drangsaliert. Gewaltsame Handlungen als „ethnische Konflikte” zu bezeichnen, ist in Kenia ein absolutes Tabu, obwohl es offensichtlich so ist. Auch sind in zahlreichen Ländern Berichte über die Gesundheit des Präsidenten oder den Machtkampf hinter den Kulissen der Staatspartei undenkbar. In Somalia veröffentlichte eine der dominierenden islamistischen Bewegungen, die „Union islamischer Gerichte” (Union of Islamic Courts, UIC), einen Verhaltenskodex mit 13 drakonischen Regeln für Medien und forderte diese zur „absoluten Kooperation mit der UIC” auf.[7] Ein eindeutiger Einschüchterungsversuch.[8]

Mehr Menschen haben Zugang zu Informationen

Gute Nachrichten für Journalisten, Zivilgesellschaften und User in Konfliktgebieten oder Autokratien: Da digitale Kommunikation die meisten Teile der Welt erreicht hat, sind heute mehr Menschen in der Lage, Informationen zu nutzen. Die Folge liegt klar auf der Hand: Informationen haben heutzutage mehr Einfluss auf gesellschaftliche, wirtschaftliche und politische Entwicklungen als jemals zuvor. Andererseits wird sich die Rolle der Journalisten ändern. Freie Informationen entstehen zunehmend unter Einbezug von user-generated content, durch Dialog mit den Nutzern. Der Journalist von morgen wird eher die Rolle eines klugen, neutralen Moderators, eines Kurators und eines Sammlers von Inhalten einnehmen und weniger die eines Welterklärers.

Warum spielt die Entwicklung der Medien eine so zentrale Rolle für die Entwicklung der Gesellschaft, des politischen Systems? Zunächst einmal können die Menschen ihre Rechte in einem politischen Umfeld nur dann einfordern, wenn sie Zugang zu Informationen haben. Dies ist für Aspekte wie Bildung und Wissen und letztendlich auch für die persönliche Freiheit jedes Einzelnen von grundlegender Bedeutung. Medien haben sogar die Macht, über Krieg oder Frieden zu entscheiden, wie wir in der Ukraine, in Syrien und im Irak gesehen haben.

Die Zukunft des Journalismus und die Fähigkeit der Mediennutzer, sich an Politik, Kommunikation und Entscheidungsprozessen zu beteiligen, sind zunehmend von Kommunikationstechnologien abhängig. Für Afrika bringt dieser globale Trend besondere Herausforderungen mit sich, da

  • es in weiten Teilen des Kontinents keinen schnellen Internetzugang gibt
  • Internetnutzung nach wie vor eine kostspielige Angelegenheit ist,
  • viele Menschen Analphabeten sind und Textinformationen nicht verwerten können,
  • afrikanische Informationsquellen, Meldungen und Inhalte von Meldungen aus dem globalen Norden dominiert werden.

Journalisten und Medien in Afrika bleibt nichts anderes übrig, als sich auf diese neue Konkurrenzsituation in der digitalen Kommunikation einzustellen. Schauen wir uns einmal die „Millennials” an, die Generation der um die Jahrtausendwende geborenen Medienkonsumenten. Wie nutzen diese jungen Menschen im Alter von rund 20 Jahren Medien? Eines wissen wir: Sie mögen Videos, aber sie schauen kein Fernsehen. Und sie lesen keine Zeitungen. Ein Großteil von ihnen bezieht ihre Nachrichten aus den Sozialen Medien, insbesondere über Facebook. 88 Prozent aller Millennials rufen Medienberichte und Informationen über Facebook ab,[9] 83 Prozent über YouTube, 50 Prozent über Instagram, 36 Prozent über Pinterest, 33 Prozent über Twitter, 23 Prozent über Reddit und 21 Prozent über Tumblr[10]. Wer dieses junge Publikum mit Nachrichten, Informationen oder Meldungen erreichen will, muss Web 2.0-Anwendungen nutzen[11]. „Wenn Nachrichten wichtig sind, dann finden sie auch den Weg zu mir.” Diese Aussage eines amerikanischen Studenten aus dem Jahre 2008 wird schon bald auch auf das Nachrichtenpublikum in den Ballungsgebieten Afrikas zutreffen.

Dieser Trend stellt die Journalisten, die Medien und die Medienpolitik in Afrika handwerklich und wirtschaftlich vor eine gewaltige Herausforderung. Die digitale Kluft zwischen dem globalen Norden und dem globalen Süden ist groß. In Afrika besteht die Kluft zudem zwischen Arm und Reich, Stadt und Land, technisch erschlossenen und nicht erschlossenen Regionen – und zwischen gebildeten Menschen und Analphabeten.

Alle diese Kluften sind zu überwinden, damit Medien wirkungsvoll zu Entwicklung beitragen können. Es reicht nicht aus, für einen besseren technischen Zugang zum Internet zu sorgen, ICT-Labs einzurichten und Breitbandnetze auszubauen. Vielmehr ist ein mehrschichtiger Ansatz erforderlich. Wir müssen die Fähigkeit, Medien zu nutzen, verbessern– sei es die Schreib- und Lesefertigkeit oder die Fähigkeit, im weltweiten Datendschungel die passenden Informationsquellen zu finden. Und wir müssen dafür sorgen, dass Content-Produzenten – seien es Journalisten oder die Zivilgesellschaft – in der Lage sind, sich wirksam Gehör zu verschaffen und ihr Zielpublikum zu erreichen.

Zudem sollten wir uns weiterhin für eine bessere Qualifikation der Journalisten einsetzen, damit diese im neuen Wettbewerb der digitalen Kommunikation bestehen und interagieren können. Das Internet hat den Journalismus in allen Punkten grundlegend verändert: von der Recherche über die Produktion der Inhalte bis hin zur Auswahl von Multimediaformaten für die Präsentation der Meldungen. Dies erfordert neue Fähigkeiten, weshalb Partner auf der ganzen Welt immer häufiger eine digitale Schulung fordern. Welche interaktiven Formate eignen sich am besten? Wie lassen sich journalistische Inhalte online besser präsentieren? Wie können wir nutzergenerierte Inhalte in unsere Programmgestaltung einbinden? All dies sind Fragen, die zeitgemäße, flexible Antworten erfordern, um den Arbeitsbedingungen der Medien in Afrika Rechnung zu tragen.

Die neuen Konkurrenten – Chance und Herausforderung für die Medien

Auch für Afrika kann die Beteiligung der Nutzer an der Produktion von Inhalten eine Chance sein. Auch hier gilt: „Die Nachrichtenkanäle sind nicht mehr in den Händen der Nachrichtenmacher.”[12] Emily Bell, Leiterin des TOW Center for Digital Journalism an der Columbia University,[13] beschreibt damit die neuen Konkurrenten: „Die Presse ist nicht mehr die Hüterin der freien Presse und hat die Kontrolle über die wichtigsten Kanäle, über die Nachrichten ihr Publikum erreichen, verloren. Mittlerweile wird die Nachrichtenlandschaft von einer kleinen Anzahl an privaten Unternehmen kontrolliert, die ihren Sitz in Silicon Valley haben. In einer Welt, in der wir Tag für Tag durch Soziale Plattformen navigieren, ist die Frage, wie Informationen uns erreichen, was ‘im Trend’ liegt und wie solche Algorithmen funktionieren, nicht mehr nur von marginaler Bedeutung, sondern von zentralem demokratischem Interesse.”

Ein paar Fakten: Facebook hat 1,3 Milliarden Nutzer, das sind rund 20 Prozent der gesamten Weltbevölkerung. In Afrika verzeichnet das Soziale Netzwerk monatlich über 100 Millionen aktive Nutzer. Nahezu 10 Prozent aller Afrikaner nutzen Facebook regelmäßig. Facebook zufolge ist damit die Hälfte der 200 Milionen Afrikaner mit dem Internet verbunden.[14] Mehr als 80 Prozent der Facebook-Nutzer in Afrika rufen die Plattform von ihrem Mobiltelefon auf.[15] Nach Aussage des Kommunikationsinfrastrukturanbieters Ericsson wird die Zahl der Mobiltelefone in Afrika bis 2019 auf 930 Millionen Ansteigen.[16] YouTube hat eine Milliarde Nutzer, und pro Minute werden 100 Stunden Videomaterial auf die Plattform hochgeladen. Twitter hat mittlerweile über 300 Millionen User.[17] Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp und WeChat entwickeln sich immer mehr zu Standardplattformen für ein jüngeres Publikum. Die Internetnutzung per Mobiltelefon wird in Afrika in den kommenden fünf Jahren vermutlich um das Zwanzigfache zunehmen.

Diese Situation wird in Konflikt- oder Kriegszeiten noch zusätzlich verschärft. Insbesondere in den derzeitigen Konfliktgebieten sind eine Reihe von besorgniserregenden Trends zu verzeichnen.[18] Schauen wir nach Burundi: Dort ist der bislang vorrangig politische, aber nicht ethnische Konflikt gleichzeitig auch ein Krieg gegen die unabhängigen Medien.[19] Seit den ersten Protesten gegen eine dritte Amtszeit von Präsident Nkurunziza geht die burundische Regierung gegen Journalisten vor. In Bujumbura wurden der Sitz mehrerer Journalistenverbände wie das „Maison de la presse” sowie die Radiosender „Radio Publique Africaine” und „RPA Ngozi” Ende April 2015 geschlossen[20]. Diese professionellen und unabhängigen Medienhäuser sind nun verstummt.

Am 13. Mai 2015 versuchten Teile der Armee, gegen die Regierung zu putschen. Im Zuge dieses Putschversuches haben Polizisten die vier wichtigsten Privatsender (RPA, Bonesha FM, Radio Isanganiro und Radio Télé Renaissance) mit Maschinengewehren, Raketen und Granaten beschossen. Das regierungsnahe Radio REMA FM wurde von Demonstranten angegriffen. Der Chef des unabhängigen Medienverbands OPB (Observatoire de la presse au Burundi), Innocent Muhozi, berichtete bereits im Vorfeld des gescheiterten Putsches von Repressionen und Drohanrufen sowie von Schwarzen Listen mit den Namen regimefeindlicher Journalist/innen.

Nach der Wiederwahl von Nkurunziza– der Druck auf die Medien hält weiter an.

Nach dem Putschversuch sind die meisten Journalisten und alle Direktoren der unabhängigen Sender ins Ausland geflüchtet. Die meisten befinden sich immer noch in Kigali (Ruanda), wo sie neue Medieninitiativen ins Leben gerufen haben. Neun Monate lang konnten sich die burundischen Hörer nur über den nationalen Rundfunksender RTNB (Radio-Télévision Nationale du Burundi) informieren. Kurz vor einem Besuch des Generalsekretärs der UN, Bank Ki-Moon, in Burundi wurden am 19. Februar 2016 zwei Sender wiedereröffnet. Es handelt sich um REMA FM, das seit Mai 2015 nur noch Musik und Unterhaltung sendete und um Radio Isanganiro, einem bis Mai 2015 unabhängigen Medium. Die „Wiedereröffnung“ von Radio Isanganiro wurde von Menschenrechtlern stark kritisiert, denn sie geschieht unter starken Auflagen. Die Direktorin Anne Niyuhire und die meisten Mitarbeiter des Senders befinden sich immer noch im Exil.

Die Radios sind auf Verbreitungswege im Netz ausgewichen: Radio Bonesha, Insanganiro und RPA bauten ihre Webpräsenz aus. „Radio Télévision Renaissance“ sattelte um auf YouTube. Manche Sendungen werden über ruandische Radiosender ausgestrahlt und erreichen so Nutzer im Osten Burundis.

Ein Kollektiv von Journalisten und Journalistinnen von den durch die Regierung in Burundi geschlossenen Medien hat Mitte Juli 2015 in Kigali Radio Inzamba gegründet und verbreitet seine Informationen über das Web. Der Projektverantwortliche, Alexandre Niyungeko, ist der Leiter der burundischen Journalistengewerkschaft UBJ. Er lebt aber seit 2015 im Exil in Ruanda. Zurzeit arbeiten 24 Personen regelmäßig bei Radio Inzamba, alle sind ehrenamtlich tätig und werden für ihre Arbeit nicht bezahlt. Täglich produziert das Inzamba-Team zwei 15 bis 20 minütige Sendungen – eine auf Französisch und eine auf Kirundi. Eigentlich sollen die Sendungen als Stream ins Internet gestellt werden (, zeitweise gibt es aber technische Probleme und die Inzamba-Mitarbeiter verschicken die Sendungen deshalb jeden Abend nach der Produktion ausschließlich über WhatsApp. Alle 24 Mitarbeiter und Mitarbeiterinnen verschicken die Sendung an je mindestens 300 bis 400 Nutzer, die das Audio wiederum an ihre Kontakte weiterleiten.

Inzamba hat sich mit der Medieninitiative mehrere Ziele gesetzt: Die Exil-Journalisten wollen eine alternative Berichterstattung über ihr Land gewährleisten, um der einseitigen Information durch die Regierung etwas entgegenzusetzen. Sie wollen so den Zugang zu Informationen in Burundi und auch für die Burundier im Exil sichern, der durch die Schließung der meisten burundischen Medien massiv eingeschränkt wurde.

Vergleichbare Ziele hat auch der andere größere Exilsender „Humura Burundi“. Er produziert seit Anfang Oktober 2015 täglich eine 30minütige Nachrichtensendung auf Kirundi. Die Medieninitiative wurde von Exil-Journalisten des burundischen Senders RPA gegründet. RPA wurde bereits Ende April 2015 von der burundischen Regierung geschlossen. Die meisten der 30 Humura-Mitarbeiterinenn und Mitarbeiter in Ruanda haben vorher bei Inzamba mitgearbeitet. RPA Mitarbeiter, die in Burundi geblieben sind, liefern aus Bujumbura zu. Zwei Mitarbeiter sind in Ruanda als Journalisten akkreditiert und können deshalb auch Reportagen aus Flüchtlingslagern realisieren. Wie Inzamba versteht sich Humura als Übergangslösung – alle hoffen darauf, so schnell wie möglich in ihre Heimat zurückkehren zu können. Sie treffen sich jeden Morgen in einem angemieteten Haus zur Redaktionskonferenz. Vorher liefern die Kollegen und Kolleginnen aus Burundi, Tansania, DR Kongo und Uganda schon über WhatsApp Informationen und O-Töne zu. Bob Rugurika und der Projektkoordinator (Programmdirektor bei RPA) entscheiden in Ruanda über die Themen. Per Telefon, WhatsApp und Skype entscheiden aber auch der Chefredakteur und die abnehmende Redakteurin der RPA-Website von Bujumbura aus mit. Die Sendung wird in einem provisorischen Studio in dem angemieteten Haus produziert. Zwischen 19 und 19:30 Uhr geht die Sendung online. Humura darf nicht von Ruanda aus als Radio agieren – es ist aber kein Problem, die Sendungen über das Internet auszuspielen. Humura nutzt dafür die Website von RPA ( und WhatsApp. Bob Rugurika versucht weiter, Radiosender in den Nachbarländern zu finden, die Humura ausstrahlen. Das Netz bietet hier neue Möglichkeiten, sich der staatlichen Zensur zu entziehen.

Pseudomedien als politisches Instrument in autoritären Systemen

Es gibt noch einen weiteren Trend: die Entwicklung von Pseudomedien. Was verbirgt sich dahinter? Man vervielfache das Informationsangebot, schaffe zum Beispiel durch staatliche Förderung und Subvention ein technisch attraktives Medienangebot, das aber politisch gesteuert und zensiert ist. Vorläufer dieses globalen Trends ist Russland, wo sämtliche audiovisuellen Medien vom Kreml kontrolliert werden. Meinungsvielfalt und Meinungsfreiheit gehen in solchen Mediensystemen unter.

Unter den afrikanischen Staaten gibt es durchaus Nachahmer, die ebenfalls den Weg einer Gleichschaltung der Medien eingeschlagen haben. Ruanda ist ein Beispiel für eine widersprüchliche Medienentwicklungspolitik. Die ruandische Verfassung garantiert die Freiheit der Medien. Zudem wurde das Medienrecht des Landes 2013 liberalisiert, wodurch Journalisten nun die Möglichkeit haben, Informationen unter einem gewissen Schutz ihrer Quellen zu sammeln und zu verbreiten. Es gibt sogar ein neues Gesetz über den Zugang zu Informationen, das auch Whistleblower schützt. Unter dem Druck internationaler Kritik an der Lage der Bürgerrechte, der Meinungsfreiheit und der Medienfreiheit startete die ruandische Regierung eine politische Offensive im Mediensektor. Sie rief eine Vielzahl von Gremien ins Leben, so etwa die selbstregulierende Rwanda Media Commission, den Media High Council, ein für die Schulung und Ausbildung von Journalisten zuständiges staatliches Organ, und die Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), die für Fragen der technischen Verbreitung und der Lizenzierung zuständig ist.

Trotz alledem ist es nicht möglich, kritisch über die Politik von Präsident Kagame zu berichten. Es ist nicht möglich, seinen Wunsch nach einer dritten Amtszeit kritisch zu diskutieren oder zu kommentieren.

Das Ergebnis von Medienpolitik in hybriden und halbautoritären Systemen wird deutlich, wenn man lokale Medien schaut oder liest. Eine Zensur durch staatliche Stellen gibt es nur verhältnismäßig selten, während Einschüchterungen und die Gleichschaltung der Verantwortlichen in den leitenden Medienpositionen häufiger vorkommen und Selbstzensur im Medienalltag und unter Journalisten an der Tagesordnung ist.

Der Aufbau einer Demokratie ist nach wie vor ein analoger Prozess

Mit Web 2.0-Technologien und -Plattformen ließen sich staatliche Zensur und die Gleichschaltung der Medien umgehen. Andererseits steht fest: Diese Anwendungen eignen sich zum Aufbau von Sozialen Netzwerken, nicht aber zum Auf- und Ausbau von Demokratien. Die DNA einer Demokratie besteht aus Strukturen, Institutionen, politischen Parteien und nicht aus Tweets, Likes oder Shares. Eine Facebook-Revolution gibt es nicht. Vielmehr ist der Aufbau eines demokratischen Mehrparteiensystems nach wie vor in erster Linie eine analoge Herausforderung. Soziale Medien könnten der erste Schritt auf dem Weg zu einem Wandel sein, aber nicht der letzte. Der Arabische Frühling zeigte die Möglichkeiten von Sozialen Medien auf, machte jedoch auch ihre Schwächen bei der Herbeiführung eines nachhaltigen politischen Wandels deutlich. Tunesien ist das einzige Land, in dem die Bürgerbewegung in einen schwierigen, bisweilen widersprüchlichen und nach wie vor umkehrbaren Demokratisierungsprozess mündete. Der Arabische Frühling bewies: Die schwierigste Phase der Schaffung einer neuen Ordnung beginnt dann, wenn das Handydisplay erloschen ist.

Wir müssen damit aufhören, in der Theorie über die „rosigen” Entwicklungsaussichten zu reden, die in Afrika über das Netz verbreitet werden. Tatsächlich werden das „World Wide Web” oder Webinhalte die Entwicklung in Afrika kaum beschleunigen können, ohne dass wir die Probleme im Bereich der handwerklichen Qualifikation angehen und beispielsweise für eine bessere, grundlegende Bildungs- und Forschungsinfrastruktur sorgen. In Erkenntnis dieses Zusammenhangs hat der globale Norden damit begonnen, mehr in die Entwicklung der Medien zu investieren.[21]

Mit Blick darauf, was Medien für Entwicklung leisten können, lohnt sich dieses Investment. Es bedarf intensiver Anstrengungen, um eine unabhängige, professionelle Medienentwicklung zu fördern und Journalisten, Mediennutzer und Gesellschaft zu befähigen, die Chancen der (neuen) Medien zu nutzen. Unabhängige, pluralistische Medien sind von grundlegender Bedeutung, um sicherzustellen, dass die Menschen ihre Rechte kennen und in der Lage sind, diese Rechte einzufordern und auszuüben.

Die DW-Akademie setzt mit ihrer Arbeit genau da an: Als zentraler Akteur der deutschen Medienentwicklungszusammenarbeit verfolgen wir einen breiten strategischen Ansatz, der die digitale Entwicklung in der Region mit einbezieht. Bei der Entwicklung der Medien setzen wir auf verschiedene Stakeholder, um sie zur Übernahme von Verantwortung zu befähigen, Kompetenzen aufzubauen und solide Strukturen zu schaffen. Aus diesem Grund arbeiten wir im Bereich der Medienentwicklung mit unterschiedlichen „Agents of change” zusammen – mit staatlichen Strukturen UND nichtstaatlichen Organisationen, Journalisten UND Universitäten sowie Mediennutzern UND lokalen Radiosendern. Wir unterstützen Presseräte, Berufsverbände und Medienorganisationen, damit sie ihre Interessen im Dialog mit politischen Entscheidungsträgern vertreten und schützen können. Wenn sich alle bewusst machen, dass sie an der Herausforderung der Medienentwicklung beteiligt und gefordert sind, werden wir nachhaltige Ergebnisse erzielen. Wir alle sind der festen Überzeugung: Die Entwicklung der Medien ist der Schlüssel zu demokratischeren, freieren und integrativeren Gesellschaften. Digitale Kommunikation bietet neue Handlungsfelder – und Journalisten und Medien sollten in der Lage sein, damit umzugehen!


[1] Vgl. auch

[2] Eine Überprüfung beinhaltet zudem die Bestätigung von Datum und Ort eines Vorfalls einschließlich weiterer Befragungen von Augenzeugen usw. Dies könnte mithilfe von frei verfügbaren Tools wie MediaInfo, Google Earth Pro oder VLC geschehen. Eine umfassende Liste von Tools steht auf Amnesty Internationals Plattform „Citizen Evidence Lab” zur Verfügung unter unter

[3] Ein weiteres Beispiel sind die Parlamentswahlen vom 7. Juni 2015 in der Türkei. Die drei Oppositionsparteien erreichten zusammen rund 60 Prozent der Stimmen – eine überraschende Mehrheit, die der Dominanz der AKP, der Partei des Staatspräsidenten Recep Tayyip Erdogan, ein Ende bereitete. Ermöglicht wurde dies durch eine aktive Zivilgesellschaft, aber auch durch Online-Plattformen, die als Basis für Informationsaustausch und politisches Engagement dienten. Ein Beispiel hierfür ist die Website „Oy ve Ötesi“, die tausende von Freiwilligen zur Überwachung des Wahlprozesses suchte und eine alternative Datenbank entwickelte, um während der Wahl auf lokaler Ebene Ergebnisse zu sammeln,

[4] Vgl.

[5] Allein im vergangenen Jahr erhöhte sich die Zahl der Internetnutzer um weitere 10 Millionen auf nunmehr rund 75 Millionen User.

[6] Nach der Definition der Weltbank zählt ein Land als Land mit mittlerem Einkommen (Middle Income Country, MIC”), wenn es die Schwelle von $ 1.000 BSP pro Kopf überschreitet.

[7] Regel Nummer 4: The media must cooperate with the information bureau of the Council of Islamic Courts.

[8] Siehe “Mail & Guardian Africa” vom  25. Dezember 2014: Mauretanien verhängt Todesurteil gegen Verfasser eines angeblich den Islam beleidigenden Artikels.

[9] Auf die Gesamtheit aller Mediennutzer bezogen ergab eine aktuelle Umfrage des Pew Research Center, dass mittlerweile 30 Prozent der erwachsenen Amerikaner Facebook als Nachrichtenquelle nutzen. In der Geschichte des Journalismus hat keine andere Markenplattform jemals so viel Macht und Aufmerksamkeit genossen wie Facebook.

[10] Rosenstiel, Tom/Sondermann, Jeff: “How Millennials get news : Inside the habits of America’s first digital generation.” Media Insight Project, 16.3.2015, vgl. zitiert nach Medium Magazin, 5/2015, S. 11.

[11] Das Problem ist, dass sie nicht aktiv nach Nachrichten und Informationen suchen. „Ohne Facebook hätte ich nicht erfahren, was auf der Welt passiert ist”, so einer der Befragten. Für ein Drittel aller Facebook-Nutzer spielt die Qualität der Quelle keine Rolle. Sie haben keinerlei Präferenzen für bestimmte Medienmarken. Lediglich jeder Fünfte ist der Meinung, dass es einen Unterschied ausmacht, zu welcher Website ein Link führt. Zwei Drittel klicken einen Link nur deshalb an, weil sie zufällig darauf stoßen. Mitchell, Amy/Kiley, Jocelyn et al.: „PEW Research Journalism Project. The Role of News on Facebook.”, ET 24.10.2014,, zitiert nach Medium Magazin, 5/2015, S. 11.

[12] Dieses Zitat und alle anderen Zitate von Emily Bell, Leiterin des TOW Center for Digital Journalism an der Columbia Journalism School, stammen aus der Reuter-Memorial-Vorlesung „Silicon Valley and Journalism: Make up or Break up?” vom 21. November 2014 am Reuters Instiute in Oxford, vgl.

[13] Zuvor, 2006 bis2010, war sie Leiterin für digitale Inhalte bei der britischen Mediengruppe Guardian News and Media.

[14] Zahl der Internetnutzer (2015) – Internet Live Stats, vgl.

[15] Die Facebook-Initiative „” brachte vor kurzem eine Mobile App auf den Markt, die Mobilfunkabonnenten in Sambia einen kostenlosen Internetzugang ermöglicht, vgl. Anfang dieses Jahres übernahm das soziale Netzwerk zudem einen Drohnen-Hersteller, um Internet auch in abgelegenen Regionen anbieten zu können, vgl

[16] „The pioneering continent” von Nakuru, Kenia, The Economist, 25.4.2015, Seite 32.

[17] Eine Studie der Universität von Indiana ergab, dass 80 Prozent aller Journalisten in den USA Twitter nutzen, um sich über aktuelle Ereignisse zu informieren. 60 Prozent nutzen Twitter direkt als Informationsquelle für ihre Berichte.

[18] GIGA Focus Afrika Meinungsfreiheit in Afrika unter Druck (4/2015) Andreas Mehler und Marcus Seuser, vgl

[19] Seit April 2015 wurden mehr als 400 Menschen getötet, mindestens 250.000 Burundier sind auf der Flucht. Die meisten Flüchtlinge befinden sich in Tansania (130.000 Menschen) und in Ruanda (74.000 Menschen). Der burundische Konflikt ist bis jetzt kein ethnisches Problem, sondern eine politische Krise um das dritte Mandat für Nkurunziza. Diese Krise könnte allerdings sehr schnell instrumentalisiert werden und in einen ethnischen Konflikt (Hutu gegen Tutsi) münden.

[20] Das Maison de la Presse wurde später wieder geöffnet.

[21] Zwischen 2006 und 2012 haben die OECD-Staaten pro Jahr durchschnittlich 377 Mio. Dollar in Medienentwicklung investiert. Dies entspricht lediglich 0,4 Prozent der offiziellen Entwicklungshilfe. 2012 wurden von Industrieländern 441 Millionen Dollar in Entwicklungsländer investiert. 44 Prozent davon flossen nach Asien und 23 Prozent nach Afrika (10 Prozent nach Europa und 8 Prozent nach Amerika). Mit 140 Mio. Dollar ist Deutschland der größte Geber im Bereich der Medienentwicklung. Diese Angaben stammen von dem CIMA und der OECD. Sie basieren auf einer Auswertung der Statistiken des Entwicklungshilfeausschusses (DAC) zu den Themen „Medien und freier Informationsfluss” und Radio, Fernsehen und Printmedien.


Teilen, posten, folgen … siegen? Die neuen Informationskriege

Der „Krieg um die Köpfe“ hat begonnen. Es geht um Werte, um Europa, um demokratische Ordnung und den Zusammenhalt von Gesellschaften. In dieser Auseinandersetzung werden Medien und Informationen als Waffe eingesetzt. Auch gegen, mit und in der deutschen Öffentlichkeit. Wir erleben, was in anderen Regionen seit Jahren Alltag für Mediennutzer ist: Einen hybriden Krieg, in dem staatlich oder auch guerilliaähnliche Desinformationskampagnen mittels herkömmlicher und neuer Medien massenhaft und gezielt eingesetzt werden – zur Werbung und Abschreckung, zur Rekrutierung und gezielten Fehlinformation. Eine Analyse von Ute Schaeffer. Publiziert im Buch “CSR und Digitalisierung” im Springer-Verlag.


Deutschland steht am Abgrund. Ein Land, in dem sich nicht mehr sicher leben lässt. Überrannt von Flüchtlingen. Kriminelle Migranten, die Mädchen und Frauen bedrängen. Die Polizei ist nicht mehr in der Lage, für die Sicherheit der Bürger zu sorgen. Bürgerwehren und mutige Bürger müssen die Gewalt, die von den Migranten ausgeht, eindämmen.[1]

So jedenfalls wird Deutschland von den russischen Medien dargestellt. Als schwacher Staat, in dem es sich nicht mehr sicher leben lässt. Das Gegenteil zum starken Staat Russland, in dem der Kreml für Ordnung und Ruhe sorgt.[2] Friedhofsruhe –  die Anmerkung sei erlaubt, denn Wirtschaft, Gesellschaft und Medien sind fast ausnahmslos zensiert und vertreten nur noch eine Position: die des Kremls.

Posts und Berichte in russischen Medien zur aktuellen Entwicklung in Deutschland werden zu einer Kampagne, die auf unsere Grundwerte zielt. Die verzerrt, verleugnet und verdreht, was unsere Demokratie ausmacht: Die bürgerlichen Freiheiten, den Schutz aller, auch der Minderheiten in unserem Land. Unsere demokratischen und gesellschaftlichen Institutionen und Verfahren. Die Meinungsfreiheit und das hohe Gut freier Medien.

Die Effekte dieser Kampagnen in der russischen Öffentlichkeit lassen sich messen: Meinungsumfragen von Anfang Februar 2016 zeigen, dass zwei Drittel der Russen (59 Prozent) der Überzeugung sind, dass Europa keine weiteren Flüchtlinge aufnehmen sollte. Knapp ein halbes Jahr zuvor war es gerade mal ein Drittel (34 Prozent im September 2015).[3] Und drei von vier Russen sind der Meinung, dass die Flüchtlingswelle auch negative Auswirkungen auf Russland haben werde.[4]

Wer die deutsche Öffentlichkeit beeinflusst, beeinflusst Europa

Diese Desinformationspolitik richtet sich seit einigen Jahren nicht mehr nur nach innen, sondern auch nach außen. Die deutsche Öffentlichkeit ist für die russische Propaganda ein wichtiger Aktionsraum. Mit seinen 80 Millionen Menschen ist Deutschland ein entscheidender Faktor bei der Willensbildung in Europa. Wer die deutsche Öffentlichkeit für seine Sache gewinnt, dessen politische Position hat gute Chancen auf mehr Akzeptanz – auch auf politischer Ebene, in ganz Europa. Und daran hat Russland ein klares strategisches Interesse. Die russischen Propagandakampagnen zielen auf eine Teilung und Polarisierung der deutschen Öffentlichkeit – und in letzter Konsequenz stellen sie die politische und demokratische Ordnung in Deutschland in Frage. Sie zielen also tatsächlich auf das politische System und den sozialen Zusammenhalt in unserem Land.

Kühl planen die Propagandisten aus Moskau, welche Narrative, Bilder und Motive in Deutschland anschlussfähig sind. Zurzeit sind das die anhaltend aktuellen Themen Flüchtlinge – Gewalt – Sicherheit. Moskaus Propagandisten im Jahr 2016 setzen nicht mehr auf Störsender oder allein auf die lineare Verbreitung über Fernsehen oder Radio aus Moskau wie im Kalten Krieg. Sie setzen auf massenhaften Vertrieb von Informationen im Netz, auf direkte Ansprache unterschiedlicher Zielgruppen auf unterschiedlichen linearen und nicht-linearen Wegen: Durch den Hochglanz TV-Kanal Russia Today (RT) und die 2013 neu geschaffene Videoagentur Ruptly[5] mit ihren mehr als 100 Redakteuren verbreitet der Kreml seine Sicht der Dinge in der Welt. Eine Investition, die sich politisch und für die Medien in Reichweiten auszahlt: Russia Today hat in den neun Jahren seit seiner Gründung CNN an Reichweiten überholt. Putins Propagandasender liegt bei den Klickzahlen für Fernsehbeiträge auf YouTube mit fast 1,2 Milliarden Abrufen nur noch hinter der BBC. In Großbritannien schauen mehr Menschen RT als Euronews; auch in einigen US-Großstädten ist RT der meistgesehene Auslandssender. Über Russia Today und das staatliche russische Fernsehen, das über Satellit auch in Deutschland zu empfangen ist, können bis zu 3 Millionen russischsprachige Zuwanderer [6]  in Deutschland diese russischen Medien nutzen. Ein großer Markt – und ein großer Resonanzraum.

Es geht dem Kreml um Beeinflussung der Öffentlichkeiten – nicht nur im nahen, ex-sowjetischen Ausland, sondern auch in Westeuropa. Es gehe dem Kreml darum, „auch in westlichen Ländern eine alternative Öffentlichkeit zu schaffen”. Das sagt Margarita Simonjan, die Chefredakteurin des Kreml-Auslandssenders RT, der Muttergesellschaft von Ruptly.[7] Das macht Moskau aufwendig: snackable und meinungslastig  – mit kurzen Botschaften und moderner Verpackung sprechen die vom Kreml kontrollierten Medienprofis über die sozialen Netze unterschiedliche Zielgruppen an. “Man schafft mit selektiven Informationen, Teilwahrheiten, Emotionalisierungen, Lügen und Inszenierungen eine parallele Realität”, analysiert der russische Soziologe Lew Gudkow.[8] Er bezieht sich damit auf den Ukraine-Konflikt, bei den Medien als Waffe in einem von Russland betriebenen, aber nicht erklärten Krieg gegen den Nachbarn eingesetzt wurden. Doch auch in Deutschland funktioniert diese Methode: Hier zielen die Desinformationskampagnen einerseits auf die russlandsprachigen Mediennutzer und andererseits auf die Grundempörten und Rechtspopulisten der Pegida oder AfD, auf die rechtsextremen Anhänger der NPD.

Eine russische Erfindung? Wie sich der Begriff Lügenpresse in Deutschland verbreitete

Die Diskreditierung von Medien hat in Russland selbst unter Putin schon vor mehr als einem Jahrzehnt eingesetzt: Systematisch wurden in Russland unabhängige Medienstimmen kaputtgemacht und verdrängt. Kritische Journalisten mussten um ihr Leben fürchten. Genau 10 Jahre ist der Mord an der Journalistin Anna Politkowskaja her, die zur russischen Kriegsführung in Tschetschenien recherchierte. Gezielt wurde die Glaubwürdigkeit von recherchierenden Journalisten und unabhängigen Medien untergraben.

Seit 2014 gibt es auch in Deutschland einen Trend, Medien als unglaubwürdig und einseitig zu diffamieren, ihnen Professionalität abzusprechen. Er ist verbunden mit dem Begriff der „Lügenpresse“, der zuerst bei Pegida- und AfD-Demonstrationen auftauchte, später bei  Rechtspopulisten und Islamophoben im Netz. Der Begriff steht in einer unguten historischen Tradition: Oft wurde er im  Kontext des Ersten Weltkriegs eingesetzt. „Lügenpresse“ war hier die Presse der Feindstaaten. Die Nazis nutzten das Schlagwort, um Kommunisten und Juden und deren  Steuerung und Manipulation der Medien in Verruf zu bringen. „Ungehemmter denn je führt die rote Lügenpresse ihren Verleumdungsfeldzug durch“, schimpfte beispielsweise der Oberpropagandist Joseph Goebbels. „Lügenpresse“ wurde seit 2014 eine Standardvokabel der extremen Rechten in Deutschland. Rechtsextreme und Rechtspopulisten in Deutschland sind mit den russischen Medien einig darin, dass nicht nur die deutsche Polizei, sondern auch die Medien, Straftaten von Ausländern verschweigen. „Lügenpresse“ stigmatisiert journalistische Arbeit als einseitige Interpretation und Berichterstattung mit Schlagseite – und stilisiert die unmittelbare Meinungsäußerung, Kampagnen und Empörungslogik in den sozialen Netzen als Korrektiv und Wahrheit.

Soziale Medien als Vertriebskanal für russische Propaganda

Auf diese Echoräume, die me-sphere im Netz setzt die russische Propaganda. [9] Ein Beispiel ist die Kampagne #unsereLisa.

Anlässlich der Geschichte um die dreizehnjährige Russlanddeutsche Lisa schürten russische Medien sowie russischsprachige Einträge in sozialen Medien die Empörung unter ihren Nutzern. Das Berliner Mädchen, das über 30 Stunden als vermisst gemeldet worden war, sei von Flüchtlingen entführt und vergewaltigt worden, behauptete die Nachrichtensendung „Westi”. Medienübergreifend wurde die Kampagne in Gang gesetzt: Am 16. Januar sendete der staatliche erste Kanal eine Reportage, in der eine Tante des Mädchens detailliert Täter und Tathergang beschreibt und ein Onkel die Untätigkeit der Polizei beklagt.[10] Der Reporter berichtet zudem von einer Berliner Protest-Demo, auf der ein russisch sprechender Demonstrant zur Gewalt aufruft, weil Frauen und Kinder vergewaltigt werden. „Kein Mensch hat erwartet, dass solche Taten in einem zuvor sicheren Land wie Deutschland möglich sind“, so der Reporter-Kommentar. Eingeblendete Bilder zeigen Polizisten, die vor einer Asyl-Unterkunft stehen. An der Uniform der Beamten lässt sich allerdings unschwer erkennen, dass es sich nicht um deutsche, sondern um schwedische Polizisten handelt. Diese Reportage wurde dann in einer Version mit deutschen Untertiteln unter dem Titel „Berlin: dreizehnjährige 30 Stunden vergewaltigt“ über 1,7 Millionen Mal aufgerufen.[11] Die Reportage wurde, bis zur Aufklärung des Falls am 29.01.2016, 33.000 mal geteilt und mehr als 16.000 mal geliked. Auch der Teaser griff die Fehlinformation auf: „Wer erfahren möchte, welche Kapitalverbrechen der von Angela Merkel herangeschleppte, testosterongesteuerte und hoch kriminelle Migrantenmob mittlerweile in Deutschland verübt, erfährt dies unter anderem im GEZ-freien russischen Fernsehen“[12] – so wurde das Video beworben.IMG_1898

In der Folge forderten unzählige Facebook-Posts Russlanddeutsche auf, zu demonstrieren. Wer nicht mitmache, mache sich an der Schändung von Lisa und anderen Kindern mitschuldig, so hieß es. Bundesweit folgten am 4. Januar 2016 über 10.000 Menschen diesen Aufrufen. Der Berliner Ableger der ausländerfeindlichen Pegida-Bewegung, „Bärgida”, rief in der Folge unter dem Motto „Wir sind gegen Gewalt” zu einer Kundgebung gegen kriminelle Flüchtlinge vor dem Bundeskanzleramt auf, zu der 700 Menschen kamen.

Die Kampagne fand ihre Fortsetzung und Negativ-Höhepunkt auf offizieller politischer Ebene. Die russische Botschaft in London twitterte: „Die deutsche Regierung hat den Migranten ihr Land wie einen Teppich unter den Füßen ausgebreitet. Jetzt versucht sie, deren Verbrechen unter eben diesen Teppich zu kehren.“[13] Gipfel war eine Stellungnahme des russischen Außenministers Lawrow, der Deutschland – und zwar nicht nur den Medien, sondern vor allem der Bundesregierung – Vertuschung vorwarf. Hoffentlich werde nicht aus politischer Korrektheit „die Realität übermalt.“

Erprobte Methoden: der Pilotfall Ukraine

Die Realität zu „übermalen“ – das ist vielmehr die Methode russischer Medien. Über eine Vielzahl von Meinungen und Interpretationen zu einem Thema werden unterschiedliche Wahrnehmungen in Gang gesetzt. Eine Flut von Versionen und Informationen zu einem Sachverhalt entsteht – ohne Priorität, ohne dass Inhalte kuratiert, verifiziert oder recherchiert sind. Die Desorientierung des Nutzers wird nicht nur in Kauf genommen – sie ist beabsichtigt und Teil der Desinformationslogik. Was ist Wahrheit? Was bloß Vermutung oder Manipulation? In der Flut der Meldungen zu #unsereLisa ist das genauso wenig unterscheidbar, wie in der Berichterstattung über die Ukraine-Krise.

Der Fall #unsereLisa zeigt, dass die Desinformationskampagnen politische Ziele verfolgen. Erstmals erlebte die deutsche Öffentlichkeit genau das, was für die Ukraine, die baltischen Staaten – das nahe Ausland Russlands – seit 2013 schon tägliche Erfahrung ist – mit dramatischen politischen und sozialen Folgen, wie die aktuelle Lage in der Ukraine zeigt: Die Destabilisierung der nationalen Institutionen, die Diskreditierung eines Teils der Elite oder Teile der Gesellschaft und die Spaltung staatlicher oder sozialer Gemeinschaften. Mit Blick auf Deutschland und andere europäische Länder[14] zielt die Desinformation aus Moskau nicht auf territoriale Geländegewinne – aber auf soziale und politische Erschütterung und Empörung, vielleicht auch auf eine Destabilisierung unseres funktionierenden demokratischen Systems. Ziel ist es, Europas Gesellschaften zu spalten und Europa als politische Union auseinanderzutreiben.[15]

Desinformation – Waffe im hybriden Krieg

Dieser hybrider Krieg zielt auf die  Durchsetzung russischer Interessen im Ausland. Der Begriff wurde vom Kreml selbst eingeführt. Im hybriden Krieg spielen  Informationen und Desinformationen eine zentrale Rolle. Die Ukraine wurde seit  dem Frühling 2013 – und damit lange vor der Annexion der Krim – zum Pilotfall. Bereits im Januar 2013 sprach der russische Generalstabschef Walerij Gerassimow vor der Russischen Akademie für Militärwissenschaft zu diesem Thema. Gerassimow stellte klar, dass Kriege im 21. Jahrhundert nicht mehr auf konventionellem Wege zu führen seien, sondern vielmehr über „einen breit gestreuten Einsatz von Desinformationen, von politischen, ökonomischen, humanitären und anderen nicht militärischen Maßnahmen, die in Verbindung mit dem Protestpotenzial der Bevölkerung zum Einsatz kommen.“[16] Mit Blick auf die deutsche Öffentlichkeit wurde seit Beginn 2016 gezielt auf das polarisierende Thema „Umgang mit Flüchtlingen“ gesetzt – sowie auf das Empörungspotenzial der Rechtspopulisten.

In der Ukraine allerdings wurde der nicht-lineare Krieg sehr viel weiter getrieben – und das ganz im Sinne der russischen Militärführung. Es trat ein, was Gerassimow als Ziel der nicht-linearen Kriegsführung beschrieben hatte: Ein blühender Staat könne „in wenigen Monaten oder sogar Tagen in eine Arena für erbitterte bewaffnete Auseinandersetzungen verwandelt werden.“ Mit aller Macht wollte Moskau die Demokratie- und Europabewegung im Land stoppen. Aus Sicht des Kreml ging von den Protesten in der Ukraine dieselbe Gefahr aus wie von den Protestbewegungen in der arabischen Welt seit 2011. Aus Sicht des Kreml waren die Maidanproteste eine fingierte Aktion des Westens, ein Angriff auf die ganze russische Welt, explizit als eine „erste Etappe in einem Feldzug gegen die gesamte russische Nation“[17]. Auch in der Ukraine wurden manipulierte und falsche Informationen als Waffe eingesetzt, um die Menschen auf einen prorussischen Kurs zu bringen oder zu halten. Das geschah über russische Medien in Russland selbst – aber auch in der Ukraine und in den russischen Auslandsmedien. Dabei wurde der Sturz des korrupten Viktor Janukowitsch in den russischen Medien als Putsch einer russlandfeindlichen Junta dargestellt, welche die Ukraine in Gewalt und Anarchie gestürzt habe. Die Demonstrationen seien das Werk von Faschisten und Banditen, die Ukraine dürfe nicht Nazis überlassen werden.

Für die Desinformationskampagnen, die Russland über seine Auslands- wie Inlandsmedien in Gang setzt, gilt: Sie alle folgen denselben Mustern, genutzt werden etablierte Feindbilder, angeknüpft wird an tief sitzende Ängste.IMG_5129

Rechtspopulisten und rechtsextreme Gruppierungen und ihre Anhänger sind ein guter Hebel, weil sie den Werten nahe stehen, die Moskau in der Welt verbreiten will: Antiliberal, fremdenfeindlich, homophob – das kennzeichnet die russische Innenpolitik unter Putin. Das ist in Deutschland kaum mehrheitsfähig, unter Deutschlands Rechtsextremen und Rechtspopulisten sehr wohl. Deshalb ist die rechte Szene ein idealer Verteiler.

Ob hinter diesen beobachtbaren Zusammenhängen ein System steckt, das will jetzt auch das Bundeskanzleramt wissen. Im Februar bestätigte das Kanzleramt Recherchen von Süddeutscher Zeitung, NDR und WDR, dass das Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz den Bundesnachrichtendienst beauftragt habe, Informationen über die mutmaßlich vom russischen Staat betriebenen Informationskampagnen zu sammeln. Drahtzieher seien möglicherweise russische Geheimdienste.[18]

Zielt die Propaganda auf die Kanzlerin? Oder gar auf den größeren demokratischen Kontext? Unzweifelhaft ist, dass Russland gezielt rechte Gegner der Flüchtlingspolitik in Deutschland unterstützt. Sicherheitskreise beobachten, dass Verbindungen zu rechtspopulistischen und -extremistischen Gruppierungen gepflegt werden. Im März 2015 waren etwa 150 Rechtsextreme aus mehreren europäischen Ländern nach Sankt Petersburg eingeladen zu einer Veranstaltung der Kreml-treuen Vaterlandspartei (Rodina). Dazu gehörten neben dem Ex-Chef der NPD, Udo Voigt aus Deutschland, der frühere Vorsitzende der britischen Nationalpartei, Nick Griffin und Mitglieder der neonazistischen Partei „Goldene Morgenröte“ aus Griechenland. Die Jugendorganisation der AfD „Junge Alternative“ reiste zu Kongressen in die Ukraine und nach Serbien, die vom Kreml organisiert waren. Es gab sogar ein sicherheitspolitisches Seminar in Potsdam, das gemeinsam mit der russischen Botschaft organisiert wurde. Arbeitstitel des Kongresses übrigens: „Migration als destabilisierendes Element“.

Ex-Nachrichtenredakteur Alexej Kowaljow und seine Mitstreiter in Moskau versuchen – wie andere Projekte im Netz – Fälschungen und Unwahrheiten der russischen Medien aufzudecken. “Offenbar braucht die russische Propagandamaschine dringend Geschichten zur Ablenkung”, heißt es auf ihrem Blog. Ablenkung von dem freien Fall, in dem sich die russische Wirtschaft befindet, von den Einschränkungen der Bügerrechte, von der Bereicherung der Putin-Getreuen.

Der Informationskrieg des IS

Auch der IS kennt und nutzt die Mechanismen des Netzes für seinen Kampf um die Köpfe. Mossul im Irak, Kobane in Syrien oder der Grenzübergang al Anbar in Jordanien – unaufhaltsam verbreitet der IS seinen Kampf und sein Einflussgebiet. Die IS-Terroristen besetzen Territorien – und sie stecken auch im Internet ihre Einflussgebiete ab. „Syrien dürfte der erste Konflikt sein, in dem eine große Zahl westlicher Kämpfer ihre Beteiligung in Echtzeit dokumentieren. Und in dem soziale Medien eine essentielle Quelle der Information und Inspiration sind“, schreiben die drei Extremismus-Forscher um den deutschen Politologen Peter R. Neumann vom Londoner „International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and political Violence“ (ICSR) in ihrer im April 2014 veröffentlichten Studie “Greenbirds”[19].Terroristen wollen Schrecken verbreiten – im Netz lässt sich dieser viral multiplizieren.

Die medialen Spielregeln kennt auch der IS. Nachdem er bis 2015 bis zu 20.000 Twitter-Accounts unterhielt, diese dann aber geschlossen wurden, setzt er zunehmend auf eigene technische und mediale Plattformen. Nach den Anschlägen von Paris kündigte der IS an, seine Informationen künftig vor allem im Dark Web anzubieten und zu vertreiben.

Zweck und Mittel bleiben die gleichen, die Botschaften auch. Differenziert zielen die Terroristen des IS mit ihren unterschiedlich aufbereiteten Informationen auf Menschen in allen Regionen der Welt und in verschiedenen Sprachen.[20] Gelassen gehen die Propagandisten des IS von einer hohen Medienkompetenz ihrer Anhänger aus: Der IS ist kein Verbund verarmter Kämpfer mit wenig Bildung – von seinen rund 50.000 Milizen nutzen viele soziale Medien – sie wissen um deren Wirksamkeit und nutzen sie entsprechend.

Profite finanzieren die Medienarbeit des IS

Im Gegensatz zu allen anderen Terrororganisationen verfügt der IS über einen riesigen und hochprofitablen Herrschaftsbereich: Jeweils ein Drittel der Fläche Syriens und ein Drittel der Fläche des Irak, mit einigen Millionen Einwohnern, die Schutzgeld und Steuern zu zahlen haben.[21] Insgesamt beliefen sich die Jahreseinnahmen des IS auf 1,4 bis 1,5 Milliarden Dollar. Soviel Geld im Hintergrund erklärt, dass sich der IS eine differenzierte  PR-Abteilung leisten kann, die Medieninhalte zielgruppengerecht und multimedial umsetzt. Dazu gehören traditionelle Medienprodukte sowie vier nicht arabischsprachige Zeitschriften des IS: die englische Version mit dem Titel “Dabiq”[22], die französischsprachige “Dar Al- Islam”,[23]  die türkischsprachige IS- Zeitschrift “Konstantiniyye”[24]  und für potenzielle Rekruten in Russland und den benachbarten zentralasiatischen Ländern gibt es mit „ISTOK“ eine Zeitschrift in russischer Sprache. Im Mittelpunkt stehen die Helden des IS: junge Männer, die bereit sind, ihr Leben im Dschihad zu lassen.  So titelte die türkischsprachige Zeitschrift „Konstantiniyye“ in ihrer dritten Ausgabe das Bild einer gewaltigen Explosion und die Überschrift “Märtyrertod-Operationen sind erlaubt und rechtmäßig”.

Ohne die digitalen Medien wäre die Globalisierung des IS nicht denkbar. Der islamische Staat nutzt soziale Netzwerke auf eine Weise wie das zuvor bei keiner anderen terroristischen Gruppe der Fall war. Zwar haben auch andere Extremisten, wie zum Beispiel die Al-Shabaab-Miliz in Kenia beim Angriff auf das Einkaufzentrum in Nairobi 2013 getwittert, aber der islamische Staat hat eine regelrechte Strategie für die sozialen Medien entwickelt. Er leistet sich ein professionelles Kommunikationsunternehmen, al Hayat Media Centers, das Filme produziert und im Netz viral verbreitet.

Es war unsexy, träge, unverständlich – das Image von Al-Qaida: Asketische, hoch gebildete Führungspersonen und Kämpfer. Ideologen, die ihre Botschaft hatten. Helden, die wenig erreichbar schienen. Die Medienarbeit von Al-Qaida war vergleichsweise hölzern und lud nicht zum Mittun ein. Das war kein Dialog, keine Beteiligung, sondern Einbahnstraßenkommunikation.

Der IS hingegen hat attraktive, massenwirksame Narrative geschaffen, die je nach Zielgruppe an deren kulturellen und individuellen Erfahrungen und Erwartungen angepasst werden. Mit Konten bei Netzwerken mit weltweiter Reichweite spricht der IS ein breiteres Publikum an als die meisten anderen Terrororganisationen. Ob Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, you tube, Instagram, justpaste oder sound cloud – die Nachrichten des IS werden den Gesetzen des Mediums entsprechend komponiert und produziert. Die Botschaft ist für die jeweiligen Nutzergruppen unterschiedlich verpackt: clean und ohne Blutvergießen für westliche Nutzer –  blutig und brutal für die Nutzer in den umkämpften Ländern. So gewinnt der IS junge Dschihadisten auch in Deutschland. Wie den 21-jährigen Arid Uka. Der junge Mann stammt aus dem Kosovo, lebte in Frankfurt und war als Leiharbeiter am Flughafen Frankfurt tätig. Weder das Bundeskriminalamt noch der Verfassungsschutz hatten den Mann im Visier. Am 2. März 2011 verübte Uka den ersten erfolgreichen islamisch motivierten Terroranschlag auf deutschem Boden, bei dem zwei Personen starben. Der Schock bei den deutschen Sicherheitsbehörden saß tief. Wie konnte das passieren? Wieso war dieser Mann total unbekannt? Die Antwort ist erschreckend: In relativ kurzer Zeit hatte sich der  Kosovare radikalisiert – vor seinem Computer in Deutschland. Wie viele andere konsumierte er die Propaganda radikaler islamischer Prediger. Er fand Gleichgesinnte, Anerkennung und Zuflucht in einer neuen, virtuellen Realität.

Das Video der Hinrichtung von James Foley (seit November 2012 verschleppt), das auf einer Internetseite, die solche Filme duldet, bisher 1,3 Millionen Mal angesehen wurde, ist an Nutzer im Westen adressiert.[25] Foley macht in orangener Guantanamo-Kluft die USA für seinen Tod verantwortlich, bereut, als Amerikaner geboren zu sein und spricht andere von jeder Schuld frei. Nach diesen Worten setzt der maskierte Killer, der Englisch mit britischem Akzent spricht, dem Journalisten das Messer an die Kehle und bewegt es. Dann verdunkelt sich das Bild. Es fließt kein Tropfen Blut. Die Enthauptung vor laufender Kamera ist wahrscheinlich vorgetäuscht.

Krieg mit anderen Mitteln

In den Videos, die sich an arabische Nutzer richten, ist die Sprache eine ganz andere: Wie in dem Video, das über elf Minuten die Ermordung rebellischer Staatsangehöriger vom Stamm der Schweifat nahe der syrischen Stadt Seir al Sor zeigt – und das an Brutalität nicht zu überbieten ist. Hier ist das Ziel: Abschreckung und Unterwerfung. Das hat gut funktioniert – in vielen syrischen und irakischen Orten ergaben sich die Menschen der zahlenmäßig unterlegenen Terrormiliz. Die kurdischen Peschmerga rannten Anfang August fast überall einfach davon.

Die Zielgruppe solcher Geschichten im Netz sind potenzielle Rekruten aus dem Ausland. Die sind meist jung, männlich und onlineaffin. Schätzungen zufolge sind zwischen 12000 und 15000 Ausländer in den Konflikten in Syrien und dem Irak auf Seiten des IS aktiv. Der Verfassungsschutz warnt vor einer „virtuellen Dschihad-Gemeinschaft“ im Netz, die natürlich auch in Deutschland lebt. Immerhin: 6200 Salafisten in Deutschland[26] meldet der deutsche Verfassungsschutz. Tendenz steigend. Und mehr als 150 junge Dschihadisten seien aus Deutschland ins Kriegsgebiet gereist, Tendenz ebenfalls steigend.

Kriege werden vor dem Bildschirm entschieden

„Es wird nie so viel gelogen wie vor der Wahl, während des Krieges und nach der Jagd“, wusste schon Otto von Bismarck. Im digitalen Zeitalter werden Kriege nicht mehr erklärt, sondern zunehmend über Information und Desinformation geführt und an Computer- und TV-Bildschirmen entschieden. Das wichtigste Schlachtfeld ist das Internet, wie es im Spiegel-Artikel „Das Ende der Wahrheit“ vom 30.1.2016[27] richtig heißt. Und wir, die deutschen Nutzer, sind eine strategisch wichtige Zielgruppe.



[1] Wichtiger Anlass war die Silvesternacht in Köln, die russische Medien zum Anlass nahmen, vor der Eroberung Europas durch die Flüchtlinge zu warnen, zum Teil mit fingierten und manipulierten Statements von angeblichen Flüchtlingen, z.B. in der Sendung “Завоевание Европы”,

[2] Beispiele aus russischen Medien, die zeigen, wie Deutschland als ein Land dargestellt wird, das die Kontrolle verloren hat, als ein Land, in dem Chaos und Unordnung herrscht: “СМИ: власти Германии не имеют информации о 130 тысячах мигрантов на территории страны”unter, „В Германии вынесен первый приговор по делу о беспорядках,которые мигранты устроили в новогоднюю ночь“ unter, “Власти Германии обвинили российские СМИ в применении методов пропаганды времен “холодной войны”unter (Deutschland habe Russland vorgeworfen, Methoden aus dem Kalten Krieg anzuwenden).

[3] Meinungsumfrage zitiert nach Mandraud, Isabelle: „L’offensive mediatique russe vise l’Europe“, 12.2.2016, S. 2.

[4] Die Informationspolitik Russlands hat einen klaren Zweck: Russland, zumindest in den Augen und Ohren der Nutzer russischer Medien, wieder zu dem zu machen, was es sein sollte: eine globale Supermacht. Nirgendwo gelang diese Informationskampagne besser als in Syrien. Nicht nur medial, auch politisch hat Russland dort erreicht, worum es geht: Auf Augenhöhe mit den USA entscheidet Russland über Krieg oder Waffenstillstand.

[5] Aus der Ostukraine aber hat die Agentur nahezu ausschließlich wohlwollende Beiträge über die prorussischen Anhänger der von Separatisten gegründeten “Volksrepublik Donezk” im Angebot. Zudem dürfen Rechtsradikale wie der Brite Nick Griffin oder der NPD-Ideologe Olaf Rose bei Ruptly gegen die EU und ihre Ukraine-Politik hetzen.

[6] Laut Statistischen Bundesamt (Stand 2014) leben in Deutschland 2.927.000 Menschen erster und zweiter Generation aus den Gebieten der ehemaligen Sowjetunion. Ethnische Minderheiten sind ein guter Hebel, um Zugang zu schaffen für Informationen aus russischer Sicht. Das gilt für die Separatisten in der Ost-Ukraine, für die russischen Minderheiten im Baltikum und nun offensichtlich auch für die Deutschland-Russen, als deren Schutzmacht sich Russland versteht. Deutschland ist in der EU neben den baltischen Staaten das Land mit der größten russischsprachigen Diaspora.


[8] Gudkow ist Direktor des Moskauer Lewada-Zentrums, des führenden unabhängigen Meinungsforschungsinstituts in Russland.

[9] Desinformation hier verstanden als eine nach objektiven Maßstäben falsche Information, von der der Urheber oder diejenigen, die sie verbreiten, selbst wissen, dass sie falsch ist

[10] Vgl.

[11] Versandt wurde diese deutsche Fassung von einer falschen Facebook-Gruppe unter dem Titel „Anonymus“.

[12] Freytag, Peter: Vereint im Propagandakrieg. Kontext: Wochenzeitung Nummer 253, 6. 2.2016, S. 1.

[13] Vgl. NTV: „Lawrow will Steinmeier anrufen“, 29.1.2016, vgl.

[14] Die Moskauer (Des)Informationskampagnen treffen aber auch die europäischen Nachbarn. Seit Oktober 2015 veröffentlichte der Auswärtige Dienst der EU einen wöchentlichen Überblick über die jüngsten Informationskampagnen. Auch das ungarische Forschungsinstitut Political Capital bestätigt enge Verbindungen zwischen einigen extrem rechten Parteien Europas und der aktuellen russischen Führung.

[15] Vgl. „Das Ende der Wahrheit“, in: Der Spiegel, 30.1.2016.

[16] Gutschker, Thomas: „Putins Schlachtplan“. In: FAZ 7.9.2014, vgl.

[17] Ebd.

[18] Der Tagesspiegel, 20.2.2016, S. 4.

[19] Zwar werden die meisten Auslandskämpfer über persönliche Kontakte und Netzwerke ins Kriegsgebiet gelotst, doch das Internet spielt eine wichtige Rolle. Auch die Bundesregierung warnt: „Die Propaganda des IS und dessen Kämpfer, Unterstützer und Sympathisanten, die im Internet verbreitet wird, spielt eine zentrale Rolle bei der Rekrutierung neuer Kämpfer“. Vgl.

[20] Das erste Mal traf das David Pearl, den israelisch-amerikanischen Journalisten in Pakistan 2002.

[21] Allein in Mosul, der zweitgrößten irakischen Stadt, die die Terroristen Mitte Juni erobert haben, beliefern sich die sogenannten Steuern auf acht Millionen Dollar pro Monat, wie die libanesische Journalistin Mona Alami in einer Studie für die Carnegie Stiftung schreibt.

[22] An diesem Ort in Nordsyrien soll es zur Endzeitschlacht gegen die „Ungläubigen” kommen.

[23] Haus oder Herrschaftsbereich des Islams.

[24] Osmanische Bezeichnung für Istanbul, die an die islamische Eroberung des byzantinischen Konstantinopels und seine Umwandlung in die Hauptstadt des Osmanen- Kalifats erinnert.

[25] Eine Minute, elf Sekunden. Ein Mensch wird ermordet, die Kamera läuft. Anfang Oktober 2014 verbreitete die Terrormiliz Islamischer Staat (IS) ein Video im Internet, das die Enthauptung des Briten Alan Hennings zeigt, eines 47-jährigen Mitarbeiter einer Hilfsorganisation, der neun Monate zuvor in Syrien entführt worden war. Es war das vierte entsprechend inszenierte Video einer Enthauptung.


Fakes and propaganda – How populists and extremists used digital media in Germany

Keynote for #praguemediapoint “Media in the Post-TruthWorls”, New York University Prague, 3rd November 2017

What will happen if a growing number of citizens in a society is saying “rapefugee” – a combination of rape and refugee – meaning the refugee. If a growing number is labeling deputies of the Green Party as child abusing or „gay greens“, other traditional parties as “parties of the system“ and blaming both for selling out your national culture and identity? If an increasing number of people is summoning the growing threat of civil war in your country, declaring that your nation is in an estate of emergency and insecurity?

There are no exact numbers on how many people in Germany are using these discriminating and degrading words – but what is clear and measurable is that this language of defamation is used more often than years ago and that there is a notable and growing number of internet platforms and rightist Facebook Groups around the AfD distributing them. The AfD (alternative for Germany) is a sort of virtual engine for the digital marketing of these ideas.

Following the summon of this growing number of the self-declared “alternative media ” in my country, Germany is a country on the brink, only one step beside an economic collapse and an escalating civil war.

For one and a half years I researched what the stories of this counter-echo-chambers look like, who cooperates with him in these bubbles and which digital strategies have been developed.


There are a few results of my research I’ld like to share with you:

First: the range of non-democratic actors is diverse – they built up a very efficient virtual network – including AfD and Pegida groups, including extreme rightist and conspiratorial platforms, including pure fake news platforms or antimuslim campaign media — and also Russia Today. All these actors form a pragmatic alliance and network, they share content in order to multiply the outreach of their non-democratic messages.

And despite their differences they have messages in common and they share a comparable language!

The attack on democracy starts with an attack on language. If we do not longer have the same words and language to describe reality we would lose the ability to negotiate. But it is this negotiation and narrowing of different positions what makes democracy possible. Democracy means: to find compromises.

And it is exactly the intention and main goal of populists and extremists to poison, erode and to impede this political and social dialogue.

There is second goal of their digital political communication: to disseminate and strengthen emotions: disillusion, fear, anger, hate.

The political success of the populists rely on emotions — the creation of an atmosphere of protest —it is in the interest of their political success to distribute emotional stories.

If we know these two goals, it seems logical that fake is a constituent element of the populist political communication.

In my input today I clearly understand FAKE as disinformation: intentionally produced, wrong and misleading information which is distributed to manipulate and influence people ideologically, politically or/and to harm others.

The media in the new-right echochamber do not have the purpose to inform. It has the purpose to create emotions. And fake is ideal to create emotions and to attain a certain outreach. Fake is far more often shared on social media than facts! It is sensational, taboo-breaking, provocative, and that means: snackable, shareable.

For populists – declaring themselves as „voices of the people“ — social media is a sort of natural environment. The unlimited peer-to-peer communication is an appropriate and efficient distribution tool – a sort of “technical engine” for spreading non-democratic, populist ideas.


AfD started on social media

Just to put the facts on the table: There was and there still is no other party in Germany which has a comparable outreach and activity on social media than the AfD. The party used social media before it even started as an official party. They launched a Twitter account on 14 September 2012 – which was five months ahead of the official start. Shortly before the Election Day 24th of September, the party binds approximately 400,000 people through their different Social media activities. Just to compare that with Christian Democrats and social democrats the number of fans for them was around 170,000 fans.

There are different reasons why the outreach was so high: First of all an intensive networking and exchange of digital content – between extremist right identitarian blogs and YouTube channels and media which are directed or clearly connected to the AfD and more fluid conspiratorial platforms. The existence of a lot of AfD-activists, who understand that the Web is opening up a space for campaigning, which the traditional media was not offering to the AfD, was a main factor to achieve this outreach. Following the examples of alt-right chat rooms in the USA, similar closed chat rooms emerged in Germany during the last two months before the election. And they efficiently launched different Twitter campaigns leading to trending hashtags like „not my chancellor“, „Merkel must leave“ and „vote for AfD“ (#nicht meine Kanzlerin, #Merkel muss weg, #AfD waehlen).

It is an observation proved by a number of network-analysis that the AfD was a main actor and driver to establish Echo chambers of nationalism, hatred and disinformation on the web. Closed AfD Facebook groups were a sort of incubator for launching key narratives supporting the idea of an exclusive German society including pure Bio-Germans; meaning German-speaking, German-native, German-rooted by family history. This is not the society Germany looks like today!

The AfD succeeded in setting the agenda during the election campaign. Starting in the web, their slogans and buzzwords have been picked up by classical media, political talk shows, politically controversies during the campaign. They succeeded in placing the migrants’ issue as the one and only election issue. Concerning Germany – we have to admit their agenda-setting has been much more successful than of any other of the established parties.

The achievements of these digital media strategies are measurable. One out of three tweets about the parliamentary election in the weeks before September 24th referred to the AfD. This means: one third of twitter traffic was connected to a party mobilizing at that point 10-12% of voters! – in comparison tweets referring to the Christian-Democrats were around 18%, for the social democrats around 9 %!

And you can see the practical consequence of this agenda-setting in the Bundestag, the German parliament now: 12,6 Percent of Germans voted for the AfD – a populist protest party including a wide range from frustrated low-income people to conservative middle class eurosceptics, to extreme-right nationalists and racists. Among the current AfD voters you find one million former conservative CDU/CSU voters, half a million former social democratic voters and 1,2 million people who did not vote during the last elections. This broad political mobilization is for me not explainable without taking into account the digital campaign of the AfD, who was the only party with an efficient digital media strategy.


Populist narratives always deliver an interpretation and evaluation of reality

There is a set of narratives the populists are using – they are adapted to current occasions or events. It was very interesting for me that we could prove on data-basis how persistent these narratives have been. And that they were intensively shared in the weeks before the election. I cooperated with a network analyst and political scientist Josef Holnburger who worked on this data. On this occasion I will sum up the research results – The key narratives of the populists are:

  1. All the others – from the lying press to the traditional parties – are part of a corrupt elite, they are enemies of the normal people.
  1. Islam is not a religion! It has nothing in common with European culture and identity. It is an ideology of violence. As a consequence, all Muslims are ready to commit violent attacks or rapes.
  1. We, the normal people are only “second class” in Germany, Marginalized by a policy which is protecting the rights of the elites and protecting even the rights of migrants more than ours – to the detriment of normal citizens.
  1. The state is at stake (Staatsversagen), it is failing, not longer guaranteeing the security of citizens and protecting their rights.
  1. There is a lack of security in my country: women couldn’t cross the street without being violated by immigrants
  1. There is a risk that our identity and culture get lost because of the growing number of immigrants. Perhaps there is even a political plan behind it – our mainstream politicians are inviting Muslim migrants to our country in the aim to replace Germans by Muslim population.
  1. As a consequence, we should revise and adjust our understanding and memory of our national history. There is no longer the need to feel ourselves guilty, and to confess so often our historical responsibility for the nazi-era and the holocaust. We are another generation and it is necessary to finish the unilateral memorial cult making us responsible for a very short time of German history!

What is clear: these narratives are all emotional, evaluating and interpreting reality, they are delivering frames — which define h o w we perceive reality or news. And these very different frames separate and polarize our society.

Populists and extremists need to create stories of the utmost urgency to legitimize their mission. Their stories should activate and agitate people. This is the reason why the story of a white Genozide or a civil war is so often used. The aim of their communication is to get people engaged (not informed) – to make them part of their political battle, or as the AfD called it : the uprising of the German people. to achieve this, they distribute appeals and apocalyptic (fake)news.

You are no longer safe in this country! We are crushed down by a wave of criminal asylum seekers, who replace the original Germans! The state and its institutions are corrupt, selfish and in the hands of an Elite, ignoring the needs of the normal people! The press and the media is part of the elite’s power play, do not trust the lying press!


Active involvement is part of the populists’ communication 

Their stories create emotions and space for active involvement.

What you feel is real! – this is what the stories of the populists stand for. And fake stories: Angela Merkel is a granddaughter of Hitler, social democrat Schulz will create “concentration camps for dissident citizens” – is evoking immediately those emotions.

Let me put in a very simple formula: populists and extremists need stories with clear heroes, winners and losers. All their stories follow this storyboard and character bible: they report on heroes – dissidents and resistant (wutbuerger) citizens – who already engage in the pegida-movement or the AfD – and on victims: normal people like you and me. They tell about perpetrators – the corrupt elite, mainstream media, violent foreigners – and victims : normal people like you and me. They tell the story that a revolution and wave of resistance is needed to destroy an unjust political system where citizen rights are not protected. they tell the story that our democratic institutions are not representing the people‘s will, that our judges are not neutral etc.

Approximately 60 percent of AFD voters admit in opinion polls that they voted for the AfD because of frustration and disillusion. They do not feel themselves heard, recognized – and represented. These are the feelings – beside anger or fury – the AfD distributed, strengthened and provoked systematically by their narratives and stories intensively distributed in a digital media strategy.

After 1 1/2 years of research in the echo chambers of the rightist populists I must say that I felt the influence of these narratives on me. The stories in my Research-Newsfeed were filtering and influencing how I perceived reality, political communication and news. My world was shrinking in a certain way. The misanthropic basic attitude of these stories made me cautious and more mistrustful. I felt myself more quickly unsecured. For many of AfD voters these narratives and these fake stories have been more convincing than reality. One very simple reason for that: there are no debates in the rightist echochambers – they agree, like, share and tweet the same opinion. And when so many people think or feel like me – could that be wrong?

All European countries are confronted with a similar digital structural change of the sphere of public information and political opinion building. There is a growing support for autocratic, racist nationalist ideas – and a growing doubt on democratic institutions and procedures. It is an attack on our humanitarian value system and our liberal understanding of diversity in our societies. And there is no doubt that the propaganda of those narratives on the web is playing an immense role in distributing and expanding populist positions. One could say: Germany is only at the starting point of this development. Yes, that is right! Only one out of five tweets on twitter referring to the election during the election campaign was a wrong, a fake information. In the US campaign it was every second tweet!

2017 was the year, where the rightist populists placed themselves with comfort – politically and in the public perception: 11 Million French voters vote for the extreme right Marine Le Pen. Which means, that the Front National has four times more seats in the National Assembly than before. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands won 13% of voters and leads now the second strong party in parliament. And the AfD is —after the SPD — the biggest oppositional party in the German Bundestag with more than 90 deputies.

The rightist digital political communication is not a virtual method alone. It implies an impact on “Realpolitik” in our country. At has an erosive effect on our political and social discourses, and a disruptive effect on the way we form our opinion. Following the election coverage of the traditional media on one hand and on the other hand following my far-right research newsfeed I am sure: we should not continue to just notice that. We should no longer only react but act. Looking at this trend it is high time to train us in a more sovereign and competent handling of the populist’s communication scheme consisting mainly of too simple stories, on disinformation, on provocation and breaking taboos. This is a challenge for political and media communication and to all the actors in this sectors and in civil society.

The attack on democracy and values starts with the attack on language – the creation of slogans, the creation of simple narratives. The populists are enlarging what we are allowed to say – when Björn Höcke, labels the holocaust monument in Berlin a “monument of shame”, when AfD-Facebook group members attribute violence and sexual abuse to all Muslim men, marking and defamating Islam as an “ideology of violence” and denying it as a religion. When the populists say “people” they refer to a racist concept of cultural origins, excluding migrants and sometimes also the children of the children of former migrants!

All this is fundamental and means: to abandon human rights. To amend our constitution. To create a two-classes society of pure Germans and others, who shouldn’t be able to get the same support and social welfare. It is an exclusive intolerant model of society , separating and polarizing us. In this sense, the presence of populists and their political communication is a challenge for all democratic actors, be it politicians, be it journalists, teachers, active citizens. It is necessary to consciously reshape our functions and responsibilities, in the aim to establish a digital civil society.


What is the right reaction?

It makes no sense to react with aggression! We should not use the same provocative misleading language or follow the slogans and words of the populists. On the other hand it will not work to simply try to avoid what is thought or discussed at the basis of these populist and protest movement – and shared and multiplied in the web. Democracy will not fail because of controversies, disputes and conflicts of opinions. Democracy will fail when there is a lack of controversies. When the ones in power try to avoid a direct confrontation, try to avoid provocative issues or burning social questions – while the other comment and discuss that aggressively in the web. We have to put the hard and difficult questions on the table – be it in parliament, in Talkshows or on local political level.


Working on media literacy is key

There are indicators that legal means to oblige the online companies to reduce and liquidate fake and hate posts are inefficient. Fake is simply to massive. Much more efficient will it be to work and engage in strengthening digital media literacy. My institution – Deutsche Welle Academy – worked since a few years ago intensively on Media Information literacy, we support citizens in 50 countries to critically and attentively use and participate in digital media. To raise resilience in areas of conflict and post conflict and in areas of massive disinformation. There are good reasons to do so! Nevertheless in Germany this issue is a very neglected and underestimated one and we – like other western democracies – must invest a lot more in view of the quantity of disinformation which will not diminish but grow further in the future. The more people know how to critically use information and how to differentiate fake and truth – the less successful the simple stories of the populists will find their audience.

Civil society should digitalize. What do I mean by saying that? I think it is a risk for democratic actors to act and activate in an analogue environment – while non-democratic actors dominate the virtual “social” environment, what social media are for many. I am convinced that we need better digital strategies to get people engaged for civil society purposes and civic participation. The web clearly offers new opportunities for that! Shaping this digital civil society and understanding the role of media and journalists as a key promoter could create new chances for a broader inclusive participation of people in decision making. This is the big asset I see in the deep structural change of public information sphere.

There is the need of raising good stories and good fact based stories for democracy. We should have our own good story! I’d like to ask you: when did you read recently a convincing story why Europe is worthy and offering new perspectives to build up businesses, connect people? I read a lot about Macrons Europe-speech, about the dissents between Berlin and Paris on several complex questions, or the Czech elections. But where is our own inspiring and attracting narrative on Europe as a territory of opportunities, a borderless entity including different cultures and languages, a diverse society, sharing similar, perhaps the same values?


What does that mean for journalistic work?

I fear that what I will say now is neither a surprise nor really new – it is a very pure, quality and fact driven idea how journalists should deal with this challenge. The professional aim should be: Do not abandon the basic standards due to the high speed of the web but try to use and benefit from the sharing-economy and distribution of the web to produce digital content which is competitive. Having said that it is clear, that we must kill our darlings of editorial comfort to invest our shrinking resources to relevant digital products.

If we want to regain credibility, if we want to be the media for all, if we understand ourselves as being the institution to put the questions of the people on the table – than we have to adjust our work, invest more in research on the ground, enhance diversity of perspectives and interlocuteurs, be more courageous and fearless in questioning statements and political decisions. And we have to know what is discussed in the populist digital information rooms – if we do not know that – the starting point of our work is uncomplete and unilateral!

The easiest way to say that is: I’d like journalists to report on what is really happening instead of reporting what is said by officials. I don’t need any more me- too-products and official buzz, and honestly I do not want that someone far away from my situation of life is explaining me how I should perceive and interprete politics. This is also a clear effect of the digital news spread, which means in priority to exchange and share information not to distribute it unilaterally.

Journalists have to know what the fears and concerns of “normal” citizens are – they must understand what is discussed in the echo chambers of the populists. It makes all the more sense to take the fears and concerns of those people serious and to manage their legitimate requests. Which is very often not the case among journalists sitting in the capital. And very often lacking a distance to policy circles and deciders. People want journalists to report more about what happens really than to report what is said and declared!


Digital journalism stands in a hard competition – and there are very traditional essentials to be respected:

  • We have to make a difference in quality!
  • To be near to an event
  • To research not to report and echo
  • To factcheck accurately[1]
  • To give the context and the background

– this is part of our profession you may say! Yes, that it is right. But in the election campaign in Germany it has been obvious that media did not do that!

Don’t follow the agenda of the populists but have your own!

Don-t discuss misleading and provocative words of the populists – as journalists and politics did in the German election campaign by using the words “Obergrenze” (Limiting the number of refugees) or “kultureller Ausverkauf” (selling out of culture).

Get people involved – if media is not finding a way to better integrate audiences and social groups it will limit itself to products-out-of-a-distance which will no longer be competitive.

If we don’t deliver digital quality products we will lose the competition with the massive disinformation – and this is a serious risk for our democracies.

Part of our society does not feel themselves represented – neither by classical parties or the government, neither by media. And this impression is not so wrong in many perspectives: just one example – research showed clearly that German media covered the refugees migrating to Germany out of the “yes we can” – perspective of chancellor Merkel. And you find many examples for avoiding harmful issues, not reporting about AfD and its social background. Journalists are too often turning away from the fears and concerns of many voters, who support populist ideas.

We should not accept and observe passively that key issues of the future of our society are high-jacked by non-democratic actors on the web – like identity, like tolerance, like diversity. It is not a side aspect and a pure viral phenomenon,  it has quite practical and erosive effects on political opinion building and democracy.

It will be the web where it will be discussed and perhaps decided how we want to live together as a society and what our values are – and it is very important that all stakeholders of civil society develop ideas how we want to shape this digital information sphere and develop digital participation.

How could we build up more direct citizen interaction channels with politics, local government? How could we better connect digitally the different actors of our civil societies, building up a democratic network in the web? How about enhancing the access to information via the web by governmental institutions? In all these regards Germany is a few steps behind and must accelerate, perhaps encouraged by the digital forerunner Estonia, where people have the right to access the web by law.

It is high time to reshape and rethink the role models in our society; the profound change by digitalization of our information sphere opens up so many opportunities! We should ask ourselves how a digital civil society will look like in order to inclusively engage different social groups, to create and cultivate spaces of controversies – and what our role is in there!

Read more on that issue in my next book “Fake statt Fakt – wie Populisten, Bots und Trolle die Demokratie angreifen”, will be published in may 2018 at dtv editors house




[1] Some examples exist already and I refer only to a few: The first draft coalition implies 40 media and web businesses to fact-check and verify information and fake news. also in Germany many new initiative started during the last two years as the Faktenfinder of the Tagesschau , corrective, Mimikama – just to name a few of these German-speaking projects. Not all of them a pure journalistic initiatives apart is seven society and non-governmental Organisation. Some are crowd-fund-financed.


People are not searching facts – they want to find approvals and emotions. How to combat fake and hate by tools of Media Development

Input to the Club of Madrid Conference in Tunisia in May 2017 on “Preventing Violent Extremism”


To counter radical messages and disinformation by “counter narratives” alone would not lead to any result. It is not enough to just react, to just correct or just to defend, what is distributed in the radical communities on the web. An appropriate answer by journalists and civil society in the aim to combat violent disinformation and radical messages means more than only reaction or correction: It means to activate our communication, innovate our way of story telling, to know the echochambers and the stories which are told there – and to know which our own narratives and stories are to counter the rumors, hate messages and violent images of radical sources.


This sounds complex? It is. And in many conflict and postconflict regions where DW Academy is working it is a key issue for media development. We also know, that in these regions we have to work with the media users, who are confronted with hate, fake and propaganda daily. We have to work on media literacy to prevent radicalization through digital information. It is a study on myself: For more than one year I research populist and radical social networks and their messages in German social media. And at the end of the day: I have no demand for alternative content or counter arguments!

Why is that? A few assumptions to start with:


Forget to combat fake and hate by creating counter narratives!

Public spaces are segregating and beside the pure radicalization we have to acknowledge that even in established democracies societies are polarized, democratic institutions undermined by non-democratic actors and voices in the web! And the more fragile censored or conflict driven countries, the more vulnerable they are – be it Libya, Syria, Sudan or Nigeria.

For most young people the newsfeed is a prioritized news source. Interpersonal sharing of information makes it more trustful for them. Much more trustful than institutional media content! But: my Facebook newsfeed, like my search engine results are algorithm-driven, as a consequence these are selected information. They do not give the whole information. But only a small part of users is aware of that.

There is a growing abuse of information by non-democratic actors to distribute propaganda. And a very real shrinking of press freedom worldwide! Turkey and Egypt are examples of how quickly countries step back to censorship.

Deutsche Welle Academy works in these conflict regions and societies. We pursue a multi-stakeholder-approach, in the aim to immunize societies against hate and violent messages, to raise conflict sensitivity and a critical understanding of information. What are we doing?

  1. We work with the journalists. Train them how to constructively and professionally act in a polarized society – by making a difference in quality. How to use open data or digital devices to research, verify and check sources and materials.
  2. We work with civil society actors and journalists and inspire them to shape snackable, shareable, likeable formats. What means: attractive content! We are convinced: to think about the web first makes sense. And ask yourself critically: Will your story work there?
  3. Share your stories where your audience is. Your stories will never reach their audience if you do not work with the platforms and networks they use. Social media is community driven and interpersonal. We know that users are not interested in institutional posts in those networks. Therefore, professional media, its journalists and actors of civil society are in a hugely competitive environment .
  4. Do not refrain from taking part in value debated on the web. Don’t be shy in putting yourself, your content into discussions.


Unfortunately it is not a jungle of disoriented voices – the relevance of echochambers:

There is still a problem with understanding the echochamber effects. I think we are underestimation its relevance: who we are as a society – which values, communication and culture will be ours  this fundamental question will also be shaped in the web! To perceive  the echochambers full of hate, fake, radical messages just as a “jungle of disorientated voices” is more than dangerous! It is where future generations form their attitude. And professional media should not only be aware but should also be interacting with its communities.


We still try to avoid harmful discussions 

We are no longer allowed to avoid difficult issues like social policy, poverty, marginalization of certain groups, corruption. Media must be dialogic, this is essential! We have to be part of the discussion even when it becomes difficult. To achieve that , we have to know what is discussed and what the radical narratives sounds like.


Do not fear new competitors – but fight against the loss in trust!

What makes radical and populist communication so effective, why are they more efficient in Agenda Setting than traditional parties or media? It is direct, it is personal, it is peer-to-peer- communication between same age people, it is community-driven, it is activating by distributing the message: just join us in this battle ! You could contribute!

This is – unfortunately – a more attractive story telling than many professional media offer. And we as Deutsche Welle Academy are working with journalists and media to establish an alternative and attractive way of interaction and storytelling on social media. There is a crisis in trust to traditional media. Only 6 % of Americans trust their media, in Germans the general trust is still much higher with 50 %. And yes, there are new competitors sharing emotional and activating stories. We should compete be innovating our way of telling stories.

The emotional way of storytelling that is – and media researches prove that – more convincing. It is evident by media usage research: people neither look for alternative opinions, nor for facts. They are looking for same opinions – which is one of the main reasons why the radical echochambers in the web are so successful.

What we also know: the Internet creates more opportunities to become radicalized. The internet accelerates the process of radicalization; the internet allows radicalization without physical content. And the internet increases opportunities for self-radicalization, because it offers many echo chambers where radical people find their ideas supported and echoed by other like-minded individuals. How do we deal with that? Could we fight back hate speech and violence?


Creating attractive content – the best way to fight back radical disinformation

I am not convinced that we could “fight back” – this is reactive, defensive. And in most individual cases it will come too late. We have to acknowledge that only certain parts of the population listen to us, and for sure not the radicalized people. An ISIS-infiltrated young french or german will not read the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung or watch France2 for getting information about his “friends” or the situation in Syria. There is huge media business run by ISIS to recruit and promote their warfare. It is diverse, adventourious and inviting.

Media in those regions must provide clarification , exposing hate, deceit , abuse, stereotypes, advancing counter values by sharing experiences and uniting communities, give people the possibility to participate and make their word heard. Give them an active role. Deutsche Welle Academy is working in the refugees camp in Shatila and trains citizens journalists to tell their own stories, which weren’t told before. Or with rural communities in Myanmar confronted with ethnical stereotypes or violence.

In this context, well made journalism could create concrete added value to target audiences, vulnerable to radicalization. It could create public space for opinion and discussion, it could put issues of the target audiences on the agenda. It should be attentive and accurate when it comes to radical stereotypes and prejudices. And of course, it should reveal and research the systematics of hate speech and radical messages, should explain and fact-check what their key messages are and it these are fake or fact. All this is right. It is a professional duty. But it’s not enough!


Media Literacy is key in combating Hate, Fake and Desinformation

Combating hate and fake is one of the main activities of DW Academy and we prefer to offer early, preventive multi-stakeholder approaches. Our strategic aim in many of the conflict or post conflict regions is to enhance Media Literacy: we want the media users to know how reliable, how neutral, how professional the information is, they are using.


Media literacy starts from the question: how should we use media – but it leads to a far more interesting and activating level: we want users and audiences to play an active part in the communication. We encourage them to produce their own stories. Who could better tell it than themselves? We know from our practical experience that media and information literacy is key if we want to prevent future generations from radicalization in target regions, if we want to make them immune against hate and radicalism, against xenophobia and terror recruitment. This is a good reason, why we are working in six very different countries on Media Literacy: Moldova, Cambodia, Palestinian. Territories, Namibia, Kenya, Burundi – and in the near future in Nigeria. And each of this projects, is different from the other – by good reasons. If you want to know more about that, visit the Website of DW Academy:


Media development as a lever for social, economic and democratic development

We also know, that the best successes in combating hate and fake and in raising Media Literacy are reached if we could work on a professional, educational (university, schools) and political level. When these stakeholders in education, politics and civil society work hand in hand on media and information literacy – if they make it a priority and share it as a priority – that makes it easier to combat disinformation, the spread of fake and hate.

To make it short:

We work with media + journalists

With the media users

With civil society

And wherever possible with political decision makers

What does the multi-stakeholder-approach mean concretely in our media development work? It includes for example the work on political surrounding conditions – through guidance from government offices and NGOs. But it also means advising media and journalists with the development of new business models, so that they stay or become economically independent. We support professional interest groups between journalists, to more clearly represent and protect their interest in the dialogue with political decision makers.

We count on different partners and project execution organisations – and we know: It takes a long breath if we want to be measurable and sustainable.


No right for digital participation in many regions of the world

In many regions of the world the freedom of the Internet is just an illusion. Especially in Arab countries, the neighbouring states of Russia and Subsahara-Africa the year 2015 marked the lowest point for democratic participation and civil liberties. This article is part of an online dossier of Heinrich-Böll Foundation “Squeezed – Spaces for Civil Society”.

Isn’t it incongruous? More than two billion people around the world use a mobile phone, and, according to estimates published by the ITU [1], half of the world’s population has internet access. Today, more information than ever before is available, and more people can access it. The internet (along with mobile phones) has made this possible.

Still, the internet is unable to stop a disquieting trend observed by many NGOs active in the field of journalism. In all parts of the world, independent journalists are facing increasing pressures. No matter whether they work in analogue or in digital media, they are struggling with censorship, existential threats, and intimidation. This trend is especially marked in states with autocratic governments such as Egypt, Russia, and Turkey and recently saw a dramatic climax with the arrest of over 40 journalists following the attempted coup in Turkey. The trend is also fuelled by armed conflict[2]. In all countries affected, journalism is a dangerous profession, and users, too, may be persecuted for viewing opposition web sites or for sharing independent or sceptical information via Facebook or Twitter.

One example is 15-year-old Palestinian Tamara Abu Laban from East Jerusalem, who was arrested by police at her family home. Her crime: She had updated her Facebook status with the words “forgive me.” Israeli security forces viewed this as incitement to violence, and she was sentenced to five days of house arrest and also fined. In 2015/16 150 people were arrested for similar offences in Israel and the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel.

Today, we have a global technical infrastructure that makes more sources of information accessible, including in developing and emerging nations where, in 2015, 54 per cent of people had internet access[3]. For the industrialised countries the respective figure is 87 per cent. However, under repressive regimes and during conflicts and wars, these new digital public spaces are routinely surveilled, manipulated, and censored.

The web as driver of development

In many countries the internet has made civil society much more of a public reality than had been the case ten years ago. Civil society is able to push its agenda, and it demands accountability even in places where it has no access to traditional media. Because of its global and multilingual nature the internet offers great opportunities for investigative journalism – as witnessed by the Panama Papers project. Only with the help of the internet is it possible to transfer and analyse huge amounts of data, and its user-generated content provides new sources when reporting about crises and conflicts. The web puts an end to one-sided media communication and facilitates the dialogue between users and producers, resulting in new forms of participation. All in all, this means that the internet has a huge potential to provide better education, more participation, and economic growth. This, however, will only be realised if the legal and political framework exists – as well as the liberty necessary. The lack of such a framework means that the freedoms and opportunities the internet offers may be disrupted or even destroyed by a few algorithms, by filtering, or by propaganda campaigns. Whoever wants to censor and abolish freedom of information will pursue such a policy, never mind whether it is online or in analogue media.

And this is exactly what many state and non-state actors across numerous regions aim to do. Authoritarian regimes with their secret services as well as opposing sides in conflicts also know how to use the internet, and they use the viral spread of information to bolster their political goals and interests. Whether it is the digital jihad propagated by ISIS or Russia’s information war against Ukraine, the amount of partisan and biased information spread by such actors has multiplied enormously. The perpetrator of the Nice terrorist attack was radicalised online, in front of his computer screen, as happens with many Germans who join ISIS. There, in the echo chambers that are social media, they are surrounded by people with identical outlooks, and this is the locus where ISIS’ media strategy reaches its target group with its numerous multimedia and web-specific formats.

The great freedom the web seems to offer is a deception

In many regions the great freedom the internet seems to offer – opening up new spaces and new forms of participation to civil society and journalists alike – is nothing but a delusion. The state of the media, of freedom of expression, and of freedom of information clearly indicates whether a country is free, and this offers us a good scale on which to measure the condition of democracy. A clear downward trend can be observed: The year 2015 marked a new low point for civil liberties and democracy in the Arab countries, for Russia’s neighbours (especially Caucasus, Belarus, Central Asia), and for sub-Saharan Africa.[4]

Wherever the freedom to express dissident opinions and the liberties of civil society are being curtailed for political reasons, the freedom of the internet will also be restricted. The higher the number of people online, the more repressive regimes will try to bar or limit access to information and monitor people’s online activities.

The freedom of the internet is circumscribed by law and politics

Since 1996, Chinese citizens with internet access do have to register with the Ministry of State Security, and, since 1997, all internet providers are controlled by the state. For some years it has been illegal to publish news online without permission of the government. This is part and parcel of China’s restrictive policies towards civil society. According to Freedom House, in Ethiopia, web content is also filtered nationwide and certain websites and types of content are being blocked. The same is true for opposition websites in Myanmar, where, in addition, the owners of internet cafés are obliged to save all accessed web pages every five minutes, in order to make users’ activities trackable. In Kazakhstan the websites of all mayor blog services such as WordPress or Livejournal are blocked, and all content posted by NGOs or opposition parties is being monitored by state agencies. Turkey, too, has toughened censorship, and authorities have the right to block web pages without authorisation by a judge, as witnessed in March 2014, when Twitter was the target. In addition, it is planned to enable the authorities to record everyone’s online activities for the last two years without telling the users concerned.

This, however, does not preclude that Erdogan will use the same social media he polices to promote his own interests. For example, during the night of the attempted coup he called on his supporters via Twitter to take to the streets in protest against the coup leaders. A few hours later he joined a CNN Türk live broadcast for an interview via FaceTime, and although satellite and cable TV had been disrupted, millions of viewers were able to see him online.

The internet will not suspend the rules of the market. In countries where professional media enterprises are unable to sustain themselves, the internet will not be the solution – rather, the problem will get worse as fast-growing, web-based competition will put such outlets under increased pressure. Cases in point are the media markets of Eastern Europe where a high number of outlets compete for very few users[5]. The media companies depend on their owners’ politics, and this relationship affects the contents they offer, often resulting in one-sided, partisan reporting and self-censorship. Thus media fail to fulfil their mission to provide fair and impartial coverage. As a consequence, most people have lost confidence in them.

Digital participation is key to development

In many regions, few people have internet access. In Ethiopia and Uganda, for example, only 4 per cent of the population owns a web-enabled smartphone. In Pakistan the figure is 11 per cent – and thus on a par with Burkina Faso and Tanzania. In Russia 45% of people have internet access – similar to the situation in other emerging nations such as Venezuela and Brazil. As a rule, the rural population in those countries, as well as women and the less educated, have little opportunity to access online information.

There is an immediate interdependency: Wherever the human right to freedom of expression is violated, and wherever it is abrogated by law, arrests, or intimidation, civil society’s scope for action, as well as all forms of diversity and political, social, or economic participation will decrease.

The consequences are grave: The ease of access to information and communication tools has been proven to affect the development of national economies. According to the Worldbank, in a developing country every mobile phone per 100 people will add 0.8 per cent of growth. The human right to freedom of expression and access to information is nothing less than a precondition for exercising one’s fundamental and human rights, and, consequently, it is crucial to the comprehensive development of all people within a society.

Digital participation is not an add-on; it is the precondition for development[6]. Digital participation means that people are able to access independent sources of information freely and without obstacles. Digital participation, however, not only requires that everybody can access information, and that people are not arrested, threatened, or interrogated for voicing their views online, digital participation also requires that people know how to use the information gleaned.

For online information to result in greater freedom, more accountability, and increased pluralism users everywhere need certain skills. In many regions of the world media savvy lags far behind the pace of technical progress[7]. Boosting “media and information literacy” means, above all, enabling people to ask the right questions: how to distinguish between opinion pieces and facts? how to grasp and classify media messages? how to find alternative news sources? and how to participate effectively online?

With such a skill set – and despite limitations and manipulation – everybody will be able to use online information as a learning tool, for their personal growth, to build networks, and to become an active member of civil society. Once people are able to distinguish between what is true and what is not true, the promise of the internet will come true – and everyone will have the opportunity to participate digitally!


[1] The International Telecommunication Union, ITU, is a specialised agency of the United Nations. It is responsible for issues to do with information and communication technologies.

[2] Some of the countries most affected are Syria, Libya, Burundi, and Yemen.

[3] Source: pewglobal

[4] The Freedom House Index records 195 countries. In 2015, of those 89 (46 per cent) where considered “free”, 55 (28 per cent) “partly free,” and 51 (26 per cent) “not free.”

[5] Georgia, for example, has 138 TV and 21 radio stations.

[6] “Digital participation” is one of the key strategic aims of the DW Akademie.

[7] This is one of our key fields of action in media development co-operation. DW Akademie is Germany’s leading organisation for media development with projects in about 50 countries (financed by the German Foreign and Development Ministries, as well as by multilateral organisations).


This article is part of our dossier “Squeezed – Spaces for Civil Society”.

Creative Commons Lizenzvertrag This article is licensed under Creative Commons License.

THINK BIG(ger) and act digital ! – How Media in Africa could foster development

Imagine a no-name land anywhere in Africa where women and men are heavily persecuted by maroding (?) violating extremists.  Nothing extraordinary, only a very realistic example of how human rights are violated and neglected.

On 14th of March 2014, Boko Haram gunmen attacked the Giwa military barracks in the 500.000-people city of Maiduguri, Borno state, Nigeria. Later the military regained control again. More than 640 people, mostly unarmed recaptured detainees were murdered. Captured in a 35-seconds-clip of an unknown mobile user was what happened to one of the victims: The video showed a Nigerian soldier murdering an unarmed man in broad daylight. This clip came across the mailbox of Amnesty International. The NGO was able to confirm the exact location of the incident, and to verify the authenticity of the clip, which “was only the tip of the iceberg”, as Amnesty International’s Christoph Koettl explains. This user generated content, attentively verified by metadata and content analysis was used as the basis for the Amnesty International Report putting light in the atrocities in Nigeria

New watchdogs: Citizen Media investigate human rights and cover elections

Imagine an African regional powerhouse with a political, social and religious gapping between North and South. Hate speeches and violent attacks between Muslim and Christian people  erupting frequently. A small hate-message, a cartoon or a blasphemic comment could cause violent attacks in certain regions. This country stands in the middle of a controversial election campaign where a new president should be elected. Bad times for journalists and media? Of course not! The current elections in Nigeria proved that the opposite is true: the quality and the way digital content is distributed makes a significant difference.

It is not by hazard that those two examples come from Nigeria, a country with one of the fastest growing Internet penetration rates in Africa.

The dimension of what (social) media could do became evident during the recent recognizable power shift. The presidential elections in Nigeria went well – for journalists, media users, and for the voters: Long before the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) shared any official polling numbers, Nigerians who had volunteered among the 700,000 electoral officers shared the regional voting results of their polling stations. President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressive Congress party’s lead in the vote last month quickly became apparent a few hours after polling units closed thanks to technologically savvy Nigerian voters using social media to share each step of the process. In this case, the high percentage of active and educated media users contributed to a peaceful, accountable and transparent voting process.

These examples show: Citizen media and user generated content could raise political participation and accountability and simplify human rights fact-finding. Digital communication and Information is opening new ways to participate in political and social processes. It allows people to share and to connect. Moreover, it creates  new possibilities to investigate on human rights’ violations and to put neglected or oppressed issues on the agenda. Non-governmental structures and journalists could use these potentials: They could directly include these new methodologies in their research process. In addition to that, digital communication offers new opportunities to learn and to increase knowledge. In its basic structure digital communication is inclusive. It could be an effective tool to enhance development. All this is possible right now, not tomorrow.

Freedom on decline – What Media Barometers say about African Media

So far the general assessment – let us take a closer look at African media reality and the current global trends which put this inclusive development target under challenges and risks. The biggest risk is censorship.

The differences among African states when it comes to press freedom are tremendous. The ranking of reporters without frontiers 2015 puts Namibia on rank 17 – quite better than a lot of European states. Look at the forerunners in press freedom: Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, the Comoran Islands and South Africa. These countries courageously developed, shaped and liberalized their media markets. They offer a diverse and rich variety of media outlets. And they are all Middle-Income countries! But also Burkina Faso and Niger are showing up in the class „Satisfying“ – as well as France, Great Britain, Spain and Portugal.

13 other African states – especially in the eastern part of the continent – show “recognizable problems” or are among those regions, where press freedom is in a very bad condition (as do Italy or Greece).  Also, there is a high percentage of African states in the last two categories- Here you find most of the authoritarian governed countries like Eritrea (rank180), Sudan (174), Somalia (172), Djiboutis (170), Äquatorialguineas (167) und Ruanda.(161)

Many African media outlets suffer from serious structural weaknesses: no sufficient publicity markets, no economic basis for media outlets, interferences of owners, politicians and the lack of professional skills. Those factors create certain dependencies – be it by oligarchs or politicians.

This makes African media fragile in many regions: A situation that becomes even worse during conflict or war times. We have to acknowledge some alarming trends in Africa, especially in the zones of current conflicts.

Take Burundi : The political and not-yet ethical conflict there is also a war against the independent media. Since the first protest against a third turn of president Nkurunziza, the

Burundian government is offending journalists. The headquarter of different journalists associations in Bujumbura as the ‚Maison de la presse’ and the radiostations „Radio Publique Africaine” and “RPA Ngozi” have been closed down at the end of April 2015. These professional and independent media-houses are now voiceless. During the same period the number of aggressive and violent voices in the social media grew. Voices that escalate the conflict.  On the 13th of May – during the attempted putsch – the Police fired with machine guns and grenades at buildings of four bigger private FM Stations (RPA, Bonesha FM, Radio Isanganiro und Radio Télé Renaissance).The head of the independent Media Association OPB (Observatoire de la presse au Burundi), Innocent Muhozi, reported that journalists have been physically threatened and intimidated before this attempted putsch. He also reported the existence of black lists with names of critical journalists. Since that day only the state broadcaster is able to broadcast – all other FM-radio-Voices have been silenced by government.

We’re not only seeing the newly emerging political crises like in Burundi but also new trends like the growing religious conflicts especially in Nigeria where people and media find themselves pulverized between the religious fantasts and the governmental forces.

In 2014 Reporters without borders counted 8 murdered journalists in the war countries Somalia, DRC, and Centralafrican Republic. Our colleague and Radiojournalist Elisabeth Blanche Olofio died in June 2014 because of a serious attack of militants of the Séléka-rebels. The allegation was that her “tongue was too sharp” (?).

War over mids and values – fundamentalist groups weaponize Media to a next extent

In some of these countries, where religious clashes and fundamental Islamist movements grow, new legislation decision block media freedom. There is a trend to put antireligious comments and reports under the suspicion of apostasy. One example is Mauretania, where the Blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed was sentenced to death because  he “had fall off faith”. Before, he commented on the social order of his country and described it as “backward”. He also criticised some parts of the Koran. It was the first time since independence that the death penalty was applied because of apostasy. Another example is Somalia where one of the dominant Islamist movements  „Union of Islamic Courts“ (UIC) published a code of conduct for media, demanding them to act in “strict cooperation with UIC” – which could be understood as an explicit intimidation to be conform.

Fundamentalist groups like this, the IS, Boko Haram or others are using digital communication to a new extent. They question our political order, they operate in a networked manner and across borders – and they are using information and the Internet’s dissemination channels as a weapon. These new asymmetric wars and conflicts pose new challenges for the affected society, the international community as well as for media development. It’s a war over minds.

In autocratic systems media is the first victim

And in Zimbabwe? On the 9th of March 2015, the human rights activist Itai Dazamara disappeared. The EU and the African Union requested clear efforts of the Zimbabwean government to bring light to his case and to stop increasing violations of human rights in the country.  The alleged abduction of the leader of Occupy Africa Unity Square –an NGO primarily aimed at protesting and inciting mass action against the racial, economic and social inequality in South Africa –  is only one disguising example of how fragile the human rights situation is.

The African Union also found clear words with regard to its chairperson Robert Mugabe: ”The continuous deployment of brute force as a way of dealing with citizens’ genuine grievances signifies the extent to which President Mugabe, aged 91, is out of touch with the myriad of challenges in his own country. Quite remarkably, it also proves the failure by his government to provide clear and tangible solutions to an economy battered and bruised by policy ambiguity, policy inconsistency and lack of imagination.”

Good performers in Media Freedom: many of Africa’s forerunners are middle-income-countries

A war of Web 2.0 information emerged in which media are deployed as a weapon to a new extent: to publicize and frighten, to recruit and spread targeted misinformation. These new players question our political system, operate in a networked manner and across borders. Both use hybrid methods: they rely on traditional means of waging war, highly modern weapons, on gaining territory, military aggression. However, propaganda and subversion, fright and publicity are likewise means of waging hybrid war. The new asymmetric wars could hardly have escalated so quickly if they hadn’t been able to rely on information and disinformation as tools.

So to say-Media: Hybrid and autocratic systems understand the relevance of media

There is another new trend: creating so-to-say media. What does that mean? Multiply your media and create modern, technically attractive media. Offer the users a multitude of content  – but in essence no diversity of opinions and no liberty of expression.  The forerunner of this global trend is Russia, where all audiovisual media are under the control of the Kremlin.

It is an ambivalent course – and there are african imitators, which follow this path of  media-mainstreaming in Africa.  Rwanda is one example of a contradictory media development policy: Freedom of media is guaranteed by the Rwandan constitution and the country’s media law was liberalized in 2013, allowing journalists to collect and distribute information and – under certain conditions – to treat sources of information under confidence. There is even a new law on the access of information, also protecting whistleblowers. Forced by quite critical assumptions of the international community on the estate of civil rights, right of expression and freedom of media, the Rwandan government started a political offensive in the media sector, creating a multitude of bodies, like the self-regulatory “Media Commission”, the Media High council, a state-organ which is responsible for journalistic training and education, and the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA), responsible for questions of technical distribution and licensing.

Nevertheless it is not possible to report critically on the policy of president Kagame. It is not possible to critically discuss or comment his wish to prolong his mandate to a third term.

The result of media-policies in hybrid and semi-authoritarian systems becomes obvious when watching or reading local media: censorship by state authorities is quite rare, intimidations and mainstreaming of people sitting in responsible media positions occur more often – and self-censorship is part of the daily life in media and among journalists.

Building up democracy is still an analog procedure

Web 2.0.technologies and platforms could bypass state censorship and mainstreaming of media. But on the other hand it is obvious: These Web 2.0 Apps can build social networks but not democracies. The DNA of democracy consists of structures, institutions and political parties but not of tweets, likes and shares. There is no Facebook revolution! The build-up of a multiparty democratic system is still a quite analog challenge. Social media could be the first step towards a change but not the last – the hardest part of constructing a new order comes after the display of the cellphone went dark.

The Arab Spring showed the possibilities of social media but also the weaknesses in achieving long lasting political change. Tunisia is the only country where the people’s movement led to a challenging, sometimes contradictory and still reversible way of building up a democracy.  In Tunesia’s neighbor country Egypt, the demands of the protestors in 2011 were crushed down. The freedom of speech is getting even worse: “Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi has restored the order in Egypt, but at a great cost […] As Mr Sisi has kept Egypt from descending into mayhem, he has unremittingly repressed critics. We don‘t have the luxury to fight and feud, says the president. But his authoritarian habits leave Egypt in the same condition as before the Arab Spring, when Mr Mubarak, another military man, ruled with an iron fist. Many say that the repression is even worse now.”

The social effect of better (technical) accessibility of information

It is good news for journalists, civil societies and users in regions of conflict or in  autocracies: More people are using information today because digital communication is accessible  in most parts of the world.  The consequence is clear: Information today has a greater influence than ever on social, economic and political developments.

Why is media development the key? Firstly, people can only demand their rights in a political sphere if they have access to information. This determines issues such as education and knowledge, and ultimately a person’s personal freedom. Media does even have the power to decide on war or peace, as we’ve been seeing in Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.

Whether the media push developments ahead or simply slows them down depends on various key factors, including:
• conditions under which journalists work
• criteria and professional standards for content
• whether all groups of society have access to media
• whether people can deal with, and make use of, the flood of information

Think about the reality in your own country or your neighbor countries:  Women’s issues in the rural areas of Burkina Faso, Mali or Uganda are rarely covered by the media. And how many reports do you remember about the lack of health care in rural areas of your country? There are many social groups who do not have a voice in national media – and neither do their major concerns such as education and health. And there are still a lot of official political and unofficial social taboos: Gays and lesbians in Uganda are politically sidelined, ignored or even harassed by the media. Classifying violent acts as “Ethnic clashes” is an absolute no-go in Kenya. And in many countries reports on the health of the president or the battle of power in the second row of the state party are impossible.

This is partly due to censorship but more often it’s a result of politically biased editorial offices, corruption or self-censorship. To free information, we – the journalists – are obligated to get our users, readers and listeners engaged – to invite them to participate in content-production. The journalist of tomorrow will rather be a wise and neutral moderator, a curator and aggregator of content than a world-explainer.

The new competitors – chance and challenge for Media

“News spaces are no longer owned by newsmakers.” This is a clear-cut description of new competitors, made by Emily Bell, director of the tow center for digital journalism at the Columbia University. “The press is no longer in charge of the free press and has lost control of the main conduits through which stories reach audiences. The public sphere is now operated by a small number of private companies based in Silicon Valley. In a world where we navigate our daily lives through social platforms, just how this information reaches us, what is on a ‘trending’ list, how these algorithms work, becomes not just of marginal interest but a central democratic concern.”

And another short reminder of the facts: Facebook has 1.3 billion users, around 20 per cent of the world’s population. The social network has more than 100 million monthly active users in Africa. Nearly 10% of all Africans use Facebook on a regular basis. That’s also half of the 200 million Africans that are connected to the Internet, according to Facebook.  And more than 80% of Facebook’s users in Africa are accessing the site from their mobile devices. According to Ericsson, a communication infrastructure company, the number of mobiles in Africa will rise to 930m by 2019. YouTube has a billion users and a hundred hours of video are uploaded to the platform every minute. Twitter does now have over 300 million users.  Instagram, Snapchat, WhatsApp and WeChat are rapidly becoming default platforms for younger audiences.  Internet use on mobile phones in Africa will likely increase 20-fold in the next five years.

Let us take the media mega trends in view – Think Big and act digital!

Journalism’s future and the capacity of users to participate in politics, in communication and decision-making are increasingly dependent on communication technologies. And journalism today and tomorrow will no longer control or own the means of production or routes to distribution. For Africa this global trend creates special tasks:

– Because major parts of the continent are not connected to quick Internet-networks,

– Because Internet usage is still to costly

– Because users are not able to use text information due to illiteracy

– Because African sources, African stories and African content are dominated  by stories from the global north

Nevertheless African media-makers and users have to compete under these difficult conditions.

There is no alternative for African Journalists and Media than to be prepared for this new competition in digital communication – Look at the  “millennials”: media consumers born in the decades around the year 2000.  How does this young generation – around 20 years – use media? What we know is: they like videos, but they do not watch TV. And they do not read newspapers. A vast majority of them gets their news from social media – especially from Facebook.  88 percent of the millennials use media reports and information via Facebook, 83 percent via Youtube, 50% via Instagram, 36 % via Pinterest, 33 percent via Twitter, 23 % via Reddit and 21 % via Tumblr. Whoever wants to get news, information or messages to these younger audiences must use web 2.0 applications.  “If the news is important, then she will find me” – this statement of an America student in 2008 will soon be also a reality among urban audiences in Africa.

Digital gap will grow if we do not work on capacities of producers and consumers

It is time to wake up: this trend is a tremendous challenge for African journalists, media and media policy. The most serious effect is that the digital gap could become deeper. And it is not only existing between the global north and the global south. In regard to Africa it consists between poor and rich, cities and rural areas, connected and non-connected regions  – and between literate and non-literate people.

To overcome these gaps means to not only work on the technical access to the Web, to create ICT-Labs and expand broad-band networks. It needs a multi-level approach: We have to work on the capacities to use media – be it the capacity to write and read or to navigate in the global jungle of sources to find the relevant ones.And we have to work on the capacities of the producers, be it journalists or civil society to raise their voices in an effective manner to reach their audiences.

And we should continue to work on the quality of journalists, with the aim that they could compete and interact in this new competition of Digital Communication. The Internet has fundamentally changed journalism at every stage: from research to production to choosing multimedia formats to tell the stories. This requires new skills and is the reason why partners all over the world are increasingly asking for digital training. Which interactive journalism formats are the best? How can journalistic contents be better presented online? How could we integrate user generated content in our programming? These are questions which need progressive, flexible answer which are appropriate for conditions under which African media work.

We have to stop talking theoretically on the “rosy” prospects for development delivered via the Net in Africa. The reality is, that there is little chance that “the Web” or any Web Content could accelerate African development if we do not work on this capacities issues, including higher and basic education and research infrastructure. Having understood this link, the global North started to invest more in media development.

It needs a fundamental effort to enhance independent and professional media production and to strengthen journalists, users and communities to deal with the opportunities of the (new) media. Independent and pluralistic media are of paramount importance to ensure that people know their rights and are also able to claim and exercise these rights. This is why KAS and also the institution for which I work, DW-Academy, work a broad strategic approach taking the digital development in the specific region into account. We  built our media-development-work up on different stakeholders – in the aim to make them responsible, to built up capacities and to establish solid structures. This is the reason why we work with quite different “agents of change” in the sector of media development:  on governmental structures AND non-governmental Organizations, on journalists AND on universities, on users AND on community radio stations. We support press councils, professional associations and media organizations so that they can clearly represent and protect their interests in discussions with political decision makers.  If they all understand themselves as involved and requested in the challenge of media development, then we will get sustainable results. We share a deep conviction: media development is the key to more democratic, free and inclusive societies. Digital communication is offering new fields of action – and journalists and media should know how to deal with them!

The new battle of Information – How media are weaponized in asymmetric wars

New players are keeping world politics on edge. They question our political order, they operate in a networked manner and across borders – and they are using information and the Internet’s dissemination channels as a weapon. Both in ISIS’s digital jihad and in the hybrid war being carried out by Russia in Ukraine, war is also being waged with media. What role do the media play? A current perspective from Ute Schaeffer:

New asymmetric wars and conflicts pose new challenges both for the international community as well as for media development. It’s a war over minds. A war of information in which media are deployed as a weapon: to publicize and frighten, to recruit and spread targeted misinformation.

The same time ISIS fighters began spreading rapidly, Russia’s armed forces invaded Ukraine disguised as pro-Russian separatists. Whereas from a strategic and operational standpoint, ISIS militants tend to move in the direction of statehood, Russian forces charted a different course: they showed up not as conventional troops but rather as non-state combat groups, in order to be invisible and flexible. But both use hybrid methods: they rely on traditional means of waging war, highly modern weapons, on gaining territory, military aggression. However, propaganda and subversion, fright and publicity are likewise means of waging hybrid war. The new asymmetric wars could hardly have escalated so quickly if they hadn’t been able to rely on information and disinformation as tools.

This information offensive is the main explanation for why each month, 1,000 new fighters from around the world move to ISIS battlefields to offer their support. Some 15,000 fighters from more than 80 countries are said to be represented there – and not just from Saudi Arabia or Tunisia but also from China, Russia, Australia, and Europe. The targeted media campaign is the main reason why the Russian view of the Ukraine conflict predominates in Western media. New players like ISIS are stepping out onto the field. Other players, like the Russian state, have for several years been modifying their methods since they have come to understand: War is decided in the mind – meaning targeted media work and the viral dissemination of information and disinformation as a key weapon. These conflict actors still use regular media, television even print products. But their information campaign relies predominantly on social media and its community-based structure and functionality. They tweet and share, they comment and communicate in order to strengthen their community and recruit new supporters. And they use the credibility, dynamics and ubiquity of the social platforms in their aim to reach these target groups worldwide or in the conflict region itself.

For the actors in the current hybrid wars there are good reasons for using the functions of the Web 2.0 applications intensively. Why? What do the dissimilar players in these two asymmetric conflicts have in common?

They rely on narratives. They need a good story in order to establish and legitimize their ideology, their course of action in the conflict, their world view. They need models with perpetrators and victims, stories with winners and losers. These can be found in YouTube videos, in Facebook posts, in the massive numbers of polemic comments by pro-Russian trolls on media portals. Both have short-term and long-term goals: in the short term, they count on achieving narrow victories in the conflict and on gaining power and influence and enlarging their base. In the long term, however, they rely on the emergence of a new value system, a new self-understanding, aiming ultimately at an alternative identity.

Strong narratives and a clear sales pitch

Like any communication and marketing strategy they have to create a unique selling point which must be able to prevail in competition. Therefore, it has to be distinguishable and profile-endowing, attractive and joinable. Here, players like ISIS proceed with their media campaigns in a much more professional manner than other players before them: “Al Qaeda’s image is deeply unsexy,” remarks Audrey Kurth Cronin in Foreign Affairs. And Al Qaeda did not use media and information to that extent as a weapon. “Al Qaeda attracted followers with religious arguments and a pseudo-scholarly message of altruism for the sake of the ummah, the global Muslim community.” It created an “image of religious legitimacy and piety. [Its propaganda videos showed] ascetic warriors sitting on the ground in caves, studying in libraries…” ISIS in contrast offers a very attractive heroic message for young men, promising adventure, personal power and a sense of self and community: “The group’s brutal violence attracts attention, demonstrates dominance, and draws people to action.”

Such narratives are key for the new conflict players. ISIS needs attractive images and strong narratives to establish its ideology and to create a USP. Getting the message across – that is communication strategy’s primary goal. And to convey the message to quite different target groups; be it frustrated young users in Arab countries, or Muslims in Western Europe. A battle of narratives has started – which is not limited to the conflict regions in Syria and Iraq or in Ukraine and Russia, but is transmitted worldwide by broadband connections, Facebook communities and trolls.

I The information war between Ukraine and Russia

Russia is waging war in Ukraine without having declared one. In this “hybrid war” of disinformation, economic and political pressure, and covert military operations, media play a key role. Russia’s war of information against Ukraine began long before Crimea was annexed. In this campaign unleashed by the Kremlin, the Maidan protests – as with the citizen movements in the Arab world since 2011 – were actions fabricated by the West, an “attack on the whole Russian world,” as a first step in a “military campaign against the entire Russian nation.” The “battle for Kiev” has flared up, reported the Russian media. For the Russian media there was no doubt who was behind the Maidan protests: “The USA aspire to global dominance and think that they are always right, said the famous Russian TV presenter Dmitry Kisselov on April 27, 2014.

The Internet platform clearly shows how both governments are obviously using the media to manipulate the truth. Like for example the news produced by Russian media giant TRK Zvezda claiming that Poland has officially recognized Crimea as part of the Russian Federation. Another fabricated report produced by the Russian media claimed to be showing a U.S. Army tank with a Ukrainian trident iin Eastern Ukraine. Shortly after the publication of this picture, found out that it was actually taken from the website of the U.S. Army showing the tank being tested in Texas in 2013. The original picture has no Ukrainian trident.

Entrenched enemy stereotypes as narratives in the war of information

In its propaganda campaign, the Kremlin started lumping together all players under one roof as early as the Maidan protests: it was said that the demonstrations were the work of fascists and outlaws and Ukraine must not be left to the Nazis. On March 4, 2014, at a meeting with journalists, the Russian President answered his own question: “What is our biggest concern? We see the rampage of reactionary forces, nationalist and anti-Semitic forces going on in certain parts of Ukraine, including Kiev.” With these old, entrenched enemy stereotypes, Putin reawakened a traumatic past – among his fellow countrymen in Russia but also among the many Russian speakers in Ukraine who use Russian media: Germany’s campaign of annihilation against the Soviet Union starting in 1941. The democracy movement on Maidan Square as a deadly threat of war which however can be overcome by Russia just like it did before. Such interpretations spread quickly on the Internet. For instance, the head of Russia’s Motherland Party (Rodina), representative Alexei Zhuravlev, wrote on his website in March 2014: “In Ukraine, a junta has taken power. An anti-Russian junta. With its hatred, it is provoking what’s happening now in the country …. It is impossible to negotiate with the new power (in Ukraine) or to agree on anything. … they view it as their mission to annihilate the pro-Russian regions.”

Even during Soviet times, there was never such a massive propaganda campaign as that unleashed against Ukraine. “Using selective information, half-truths, appeals to emotion, lies, and orchestrated events, a parallel reality is created in which Western-controlled fascists are at work in Ukraine, waging war against their own people and seeking to bring down Russia,” analyses Russian sociologist Lev Gudkov.

Building on traditional enemy stereotypes and (with the aid of the narrative of triumphant war in the neighboring country) the hero motif of Russia as the strong world power, the Kremlin’s media campaign is working: 70% of Russians feel that they are receiving objective information about the situation in Ukraine. But the media campaign is also paying off for President Putin directly: his approval ratings in Russia have reached a high of 81%.

Ukraine resorts to counteroffensive

Ukraine‘s media has also found a way to counter Russian propaganda: “Though the lies in the media are not as evident compared to what Russian media are fabricating each day, Ukraine’s media outlets keep quiet about many topics, especially when it comes to war reporting,” says Kyryl Savin, who was Head of the Kiev office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation until June 2015.

What is missing are journalistic fundamentals – among journalists themselves and among the broadcasters and media outlets for which they work. Just one obvious example of this: in order to verify the official numbers of victims or wounded, journalists would only need to research at hospitals, but instead the reporting of official statements is predominant. “To the outside observer, the standards of Ukrainian journalism are worrying. Professionals here are few and far between, and popularity is bought with money,” observes Otar Dovzhenko from Transitions Online.

This is accompanied by a false understanding of patriotism. “Unfortunately, almost all outspoken journalists tend to self-censorship: In times of war there is no place for criticism of the government.” This is the trend Kyryl Savin observes in Ukraine. And this is why most Ukrainians live in a virtual reality which is a far cry from the one in Donbass, Eastern Ukraine. And if someone dares to say anything different, they risk paying a high price – like the famous Ukrainian TV presenter, Savik Shuster. His popular and most frequently watched “Savik Shuster Show” was taken off the air after he invited a Russian journalist to his program.

In terms of their structure and intent, the Ukrainian responses are as unilateral, aggressive and exclusive as their Russian counterparts – but their content, technical quality and distribution cannot compete with the dominant Russian TV. Official communication and media in Ukraine are responding to the Russian military campaign by imitating the Russian formats and structures. For example, as a counterweight to the glossy images of Russia’s foreign broadcaster, Russia Today, Ukraine launched its own channel: “Ukraine Tomorrow” and as RT‘s Ukrainian equivalent is creating its own image of the conflict.

”The battle against us is being fought on many fronts, the information front being one of the most important ones. In a year we have created a strong army which courageously protects us in Donbass. Now it’s time to fight back against the Russian occupiers on the information front.” This is how Ukraine‘s online army presents itself on the Internet. Moreover, in November 2014, Ukraine set up a Ministry for Information. Its main goal is to create a strategy for counterpropaganda: “To this end, a group of around 20 experienced bloggers – a so-called task force – working for the government was established. Their goal is to combat Russian propaganda,” says Kyryl Savin.

The war of words started before the first shots were fired

The media has become the key player in this information war which started long before the first shots were fired. Media coverage paved the way for the military operations in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine that followed shortly after the Maidan protests. “[F]or Moscow, the conflict in Ukraine is accelerating profound changes already under way in the Russian media: the centralization and mobilization of information in the hands of the state, providing the Kremlin – and President Vladimir Putin – with the means to galvanize public opinion domestically and in the region, as well as to forcefully assert Russia‘s policies, views and – increasingly – values on an international level.”

Independent online media like or Dozhd TV and also other independent voices like Echo Moscow and RIA Novosti have experienced pressure from the government. The Russian social-networking website Vkontakte made the same experience. Vkontakte CEO Pavel Durov was forced to flee the country and now lives abroad.

The mainstreaming and censoring of the Web and Web 2.0 started with the mass gatherings in Moscow after the parliamentary elections in 2011. While TV, radio and print outlets were always in the spotlight of the censors, the Internet has not been the focus of the Kremlin’s attention for quite as long. However, all this changed dramatically in 2011. Three years later, Putin proclaimed the Internet a “CIA project”.

The Kremlin has increased censorship, prohibited the free flow of data and undermined freedom of expression.

Putin’s cyberphobia has brought forth several laws: According to one law passed at the beginning of 2014, any website can be blocked without court order if it contains extremist views. But what is defined as being extremist? No one has provided a comprehensive definition yet. Several months later, another law was passed which requires all web-based writers with posts that exceed 3,000 page views to register with the government. “Approximately 30,000 Russian bloggers were included under these new stipulations requiring that they check the facts and delete any inaccuracies in their posts or risk their sites being removed or blocked. […] it also applies to social media accounts that have posts with over 3,000 daily page views.”

The Kremlin’s High Gloss Media Campaign

Moscow has realized how important media are for the country’s image. And that by using media, politics can be accomplished and that domestic and foreign policy interests can be enforced. Therefore, the Kremlin’s information policy is two-faceted: within the country, media with a relevant outreach are censored and mainstreamed. All wide-reach channels are in line with the Kremlin, all independent voices efficiently suppressed. And outside the country, the media campaign is based on high-gloss products like Russia Today – and on an effective propaganda army – the trolls – using the Web 2.0 functionalities to spread the official Russian point of view. The headquarters of this armada are situated in St. Petersburg: the PR “Agency for Analyzing the Internet”. It currently employs about 600 people. Their main task: Influencing opinions on the Internet, disseminating the Kremlin’s position in a targeted manner through reader comments. The Kremlin’s media experts have understood that a successful social media campaign means that you cannot only publish and control your message, but that you have to participate in key conversations aiming at achieving a significant influence in Web 2.0 conversations. This is exactly how the Russian trolls act: they comment on reports by Western media – in English, German or French. In these comments they engage in undermining the credibility of the author’s quality or the quality of the whole product. And they produce their own “snackable” web products, for example the YouTube video “I am a Russian Occupant” which was watched by nearly 7 million (sic!) users. The Kremlin has invested a lot into these Web 2.0 activities knowing that success on Web 2.0 platforms means: building social authority.

The Web 2.0 campaign has two targets: to place the official Russian perspective and to undermine and disconcert public opinion among Western audiences. This second target aims at demoralizing the enemy, be it Western media, Western policy, Western public opinion. In the programs of Russia Today, conspiracy theories and simple disinformation co-exist peacefully with professionally-produced journalistic products. This makes it difficult for users to differentiate between truth and fiction. You could have found the breaking news “Ukrainian parliament prohibits Cyrillic script”. And the same evening, demonstrations took place in Moscow: “Give us back our Cyrillic!” That was a coordinated action to create riots. This is one example of how intensively planned and coordinated information and disinformation is used.

Using one-way regular media it is quite easy to create a persuasive, dominant and attractive image: this role is played by glossy TV channel Russia Today targeting foreign audiences and by the video agency Ruptly which was created in 2013.

Using these media, the Kremlin disseminates to the world its view of things: it influenced Western reporting about the Ukraine crisis to fit its needs, and via its Russian media won the propaganda war in the eastern areas of Ukraine. An investment that is paying off: In the nine years since it was founded, Russia Today has surpassed CNN in its reach. With nearly 1.2 billion YouTube views for television reports, Putin’s propaganda broadcaster is second only to the BBC. In the UK, more people watch RT than Euronews; in several large U.S. cities as well, RT is the most-watched foreign broadcaster. Its 2,500 employees report in Russian, English, Spanish, Arabic, and German. RT, former Russia Today, as described by the Lithuanian Minister for Foreign Affairs is “no less destructive than the military marching in Crimea.”

“We’re in the middle of a relentless propaganda war,” says Andrew Weiss of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an influential Washington think tank. Weiss describes this propaganda as a crucial tool used by Russia to conduct its foreign policy. Moscow is looking beyond the short term, seeking to influence opinion in the long run to create “an alternative discourse in Western countries as well,” says Margarita Simonyan, editor in chief of Kremlin foreign broadcaster RT which owns Ruptly. This strategy is working, as can be seen in the reporting by German media on the war in Ukraine. Here, there are persistent images and stories claiming that radical right-wing individuals in Kiev run the government, that the Maidan protests were nothing but a campaign by Western countries, not to mention the blanket opinion that Ukrainians are incapable of statehood. These are all assertions and narratives that have their roots in Russian sources, whether public media or users on social media. This is also the source of the German discussion about the “lying press” that has unjustly cast Russia in a bad light.

II Digital jihad – the home-grown terrorist

The globalization of ISIS was only possible because of the digital communication we have today. Take the 21-year-old Arid Uka, a young man from Kosovo living in Frankfurt, working as a temporary worker at the airport. German security agencies like the German Federal Bureau of Investigation (BKA) and the intelligence services (Verfassungsschutz) had had an eye on him. He carried out the first terror attack in Germany in March 2011 that could not be prevented by security forces. In this attack Arid Uka killed two men. How could that happen? The answer is striking: “Within a couple of weeks this unknown young man radicalized himself only by sitting in front of his computer and consuming the propaganda of radical Islamic preachers,” says Loay Mudhoon, political scientist and specialist for political development in the Arab world at DW. “The biggest challenge we are facing right now here in Europe is that we don’t know who is capable of terrorist attacks and how many potential terrorists are out there. How can we tell who is likely to turn in a short space of time from a normal next-door guy into a home-grown terrorist supporting the ideas of ISIS or other radical organizations?”

Viral distribution of information used as persuasive advertisement for terror

In the past four years, 680 men and women left Germany to join ISIS in Iraq and Syria. These are people who feel discriminated and marginalized in their own societies, they feel misunderstood and isolated. Their only way out of this is the Internet. So they seek out like-minded people in chat rooms, connect with peer groups on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. In their quest for recognition they create their own “me-sphere” which becomes their home – and a substitute family. The group dynamics develop a virtual reality in which young people easily become receptive to ISIS propaganda. “Without the digital media as transmitter of ideas, ISIS would not have the enormous influx of young men and women from Europe. Moreover, the globalization of ISIS was only possible because of the achievements of the digital age we are living in and how we use them,” says Loay Mudhoon.

Terrorism is a form of persuasive communication. Digital media play a key role for ISIS – being a persuasive form of advertising. Over the years they have learned to use them very professionally. While they once used VHS and audiotapes to convey their messages, they now harness the power of modern technology. Their messages are tailor-made for different target groups.

And they use all Web 2.0 functionalities: For example, for those young men and women sitting in front of their computers in Belgium, Germany or Sweden, ISIS delivers its messages not in Arabic but in the languages of its audience. The narrative is clear: You live in an unjust society which offers you no perspective. Join us. Here you can become someone. “ISIS conveys a romantic narrative, they foster a nostalgic desire for a nation based on justice,” says Mudhoon. This is the common rhetoric they use beyond their boundaries. However, within their scope of operations they use a different language and different topics including their claim that Saudi Arabia is not sufficiently Islamic as well as their fight against this shift in the society towards Western values and life-styles. Another topic is their fight against the Shiites which they proudly present in videos, one showing prisoners kissing the hands and feet of ISIS fighters who freed them from captivity in the Syrian city of Idlib.

What we need to realize in order to understand the importance of media for ISIS is that ISIS is more than a group of terrorist militants or a run-of-the-mill terror organization. On the contrary, it is a novel attempt to form a state in accordance with jihadist ideology. This is extremely important for understanding the complex structures of ISIS and particularly its media tools. For ISIS, media are an integral part of its jihadist undertaking to form a state.

ISIS deploys a lot of money and know-how for its information campaigns and furnishes itself with an array of its own media companies:

  1. al-Furqān Media: considered the most important media arm of ISIS. It has released more than 160 publications in the past year alone. al-Furqān Media produces all of the important audio messages of the “Caliph” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
  2. I’tisaam Media: produces many messages in many languages, such as video clips in English. One of its well-known messages is the professionally produced propaganda video “Join the caravan!” (Ilḥaq bi-l-qāfila)
  3. Al Hayat Media Center: produces nearly exclusively in English with Arabic subtitles.
  4. AJNAD Media: produces high-quality audio messages to mobilize and romanticize propaganda by using elements from youth and pop culture.

The media makers of ISIS also cooperate regularly with various other media companies which produce for ISIS and distribute rebroadcast ISIS contents like

  1. Albatar Media: produces intermittent ISIS messages
  2. al-Khilafa-Media: produces extravagant films as “counterpropaganda,” particularly in response to the supposed lies by the Arabic media.
  3. Albayan Radio: is the first radio station of ISIS in the capital of Mosul. Broadcasts mainly news, messages, and victory announcements of ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
  4. “al-Khilafa-TV” television channel: is a promotion and propaganda tool, allegedly planning the payout of one of these TV channels. No other information available.
  5. Dabiq: is a high-quality, graphically sophisticated print magazine in English that targets European Muslims.

ISIS media target young users

ISIS’s media makers use all possible means for their propaganda – digital as well as non-digital, like newspapers and magazines. The success of ISIS’s media is based on the fact that they are made by young Muslims for young Muslims. If you look at the media trends, it is obvious that Web.2.0 is the predominant gateway to reach young people worldwide. There is a constant increase in the usage of social media by young people. The current Reuters Institute Digital News Report comes to the result that the use of smartphones and tablets has jumped significantly in the past year, with fewer people using their computers for news. It recorded that more than a third of online news users across all countries (39%) use two or more digital devices each week for news and a fifth (20%) now say their mobile phone is their primary access point.

The ISIS media makers understand the global accessibility and attractiveness of social media for young people – and they understand that those young people are frustrated, fascinated with violence, and yearn for support and belonging, and they deploy the power of images in a targeted manner. This is why social media play such an important role. It offers to those isolated, alienated, rootless individuals the perspective of being part of a community with “people like me”. In this virtual community they attain the social relevance they do not have in their real social surroundings. This is explains why social media are becoming a dominant source of news among young users. Credibility in content is created by the fact that this news is shared by “people like me” not by hostile or interest-led media houses.

ISIS media makers understand these effects and they adapt their media strategy, using all functionalities of Web 2.0. from content/news production, sharing, commenting and communicating. ISIS content production is modular, multimedia-based and in this sense “snackable” for Web 2.0. applications. ISIS content is distributed by their own media and shared by social media – like the news on the liberation of a prison in Bagdad in April 2015, or video testimonials on war progresses in Syria or Iraq or on general video channels like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or others. Using hashtags like #AllEyesOnISIS and #CalamityWillBefallUS, ISIS followers have flooded Twitter in the past with their messages.

Make information snackable: adapt your content to different target groupsThe information strategy of ISIS is extremely dynamic and is constantly being enhanced. Their media makers are adaptive and highly professional when it comes to successfully disseminating digital information: Use the media of your target group, speak to them in their language, be open to connecting, create a community and get it involved! This is what constitutes the success of ISIS’s information campaigns. Whether Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, YouTube, Instagram, JustPaste, or SoundCloud – ISIS’s messages are composed and produced according to the laws of the medium. The message is packaged differently for each user group: clean and bloodless for Western users, brutal and bloody for users in the embattled countries.

The video showing the execution of James Foley (in captivity since November 2012) which has so far been viewed 1.3 million times on a website that permits such films was directed at users in the West. Dressed in an orange Guantanamo jumpsuit, Foley declared the U.S. to be responsible for his death, regretted having been born an American, and exonerated others of any fault. After he spoke these words, a masked killer who spoke English with a British accent took a knife to the journalist’s throat and began to move it. Then the image went dark. Not one drop of blood was to be seen. The beheading in front of a live camera was probably simulated.

In the videos targeting Arabic users, the language is completely different: as in the video showing the murder of rebellious members of the Sheitat clan near the Syrian city of Deir al-Zour – and their brutality is unmatched. Here, the aim is: fear and subjugation. That worked well – in many Syrian and Iraqi villages, people surrendered to the terrorist militants even though they outnumbered them.

ISIS uses social networks in way that no other terrorist group has done before. It has long overcome the language barrier in these media campaigns, content can be found in all important languages, including German and English. Using the hashtag #mujatweets, not only Arabic but also German fighters talk about the supposedly wonderful life at the front. The message is directed at young Muslims in the West: look at this, in jihad we’re all the same, jihad knows no boundaries. And role models like the Berlin rapper Denis Cuspert who became an Islamist and jihadist role model on the Internet, reinforce this. Radicalization today no longer occurs in mosques but rather in front of the home computer.

Social networks create a new public space on the Internet. Whereas these communities play only a marginal role in the social life of society and often live on its verges, an isolated, extremist community is emerging on the Internet. “For quite a long time the West did not take the radicalization of young people seriously. The common assumption was that this is not a general problem but a case for the police. And this proved to be wrong,” says Loay Mudhoon.

III Empowering independent journalism – media development in hybrid conflicts

Asymmetric wars are the wars of the future. They call into question the international order and state integrity. Their players propagate political and social counter-models, like the just Sharia state, the world power, and they do this using the corresponding media. They use existing social tensions, stereotypes, collective experiences. And they bank on long-term ideological penetration of society in the conflict zones. The viral dissemination of information over the Internet is the best way to achieve such a broad effect. This is why media are an integral part of asymmetric warfare. Put differently: the rapid escalation of the current hybrid wars would be inconceivable without the viral dissemination of information and opinions.

What can media development do in societies that are affected by these asymmetric wars?

It can make a targeted contribution towards protecting journalists better and placing more emphasis on their safety. This also applies to the handling of research results, sources and data.

Professional media and journalists in societies affected by asymmetric conflicts need special support in order to be able to continue to work in a professional, independent manner. Media development can provide targeted advice on how, even under conflict conditions, to precisely research, question, and verify what the parties to the conflict are disseminating as propaganda, including on the Internet. Journalists have to be supported in such a way that their independence and professionalism are strengthened.

In addition, media development advises journalists and media companies on how to report on such conflicts in a neutral, sensitive, yet thorough manner. How is it possible to avoid having media contribute to the escalation of conflicts? Or even becoming partial?

In light of the highly professional, cross-media, viral dissemination of information by the players in these new asymmetric wars, traditional media have a special responsibility. Their reporting is the key to providing a counter-narrative to the conflict messages which exposes them as such and at the same time delivers/transmits a different message.

But they have to adjust if they want to survive. There are new competitors who have a serious credibility among (younger) users. Traditional media have to anticipate and adapt to future trends: How can the viral dissemination on the Internet and its back channels be used in order to disseminate professionally produced content and make contact with users? Traditional media have to become able to create high-quality cross-media content by using new storytelling and a better interaction with users in social debates. Otherwise, they will continue to become less and less relevant, no longer reaching the young target groups in the conflict regions. The risk is great in these conflict zones that media will no longer be the Fourth Estate but will rather become a mere tool in the hands of state and non-state players.

Applicable to all areas of life – from personal safety and integrity to health and education – but also to the handling and use of information in asymmetric conflicts: it is important to strengthen the resilience of these societies, i.e. their ability to surmount crises. Media development also has to take users increasingly into account and enable and strengthen them in dealing with sources. (Digital) Media literacy is important. In an age in which information is accessible worldwide over the Internet, the key for users and consumers is an increased expertise in handling this digital information.

This is all the more important in that the free accessibility of information on the Internet also makes it possible to limit and manipulate information in new ways. Particularly in societies affected by asymmetric wars, journalists are at risk of no longer being the Fourth Estate but instead merely a plaything of state and non-state players – censored and suppressed by state organs, economically burnt-out, kicked around between the conflict parties and working under high risk. Media development should react with a multi-stakeholder approach, supporting journalists and users in order to counteract this trend.

Develop media, strengthen human rights – Why media development is a key question for Development and Democratization

First of all a good message for journalists as well as their clients: There are more people nowadays that use information. There are more producers, more information offers. In short: Information influence on a whole different scale than 50 years ago  the social, economic and political development of entire regions and their societies. Without social media, the Arabellion would probably not have happened. The strengthening of the civil society in the Ukraine since 2004 in an authoritarian and censored political system was possible because people were able to exchange information and encourage each other through the web.

There are no information-free spaces in this world anymore. Today real-time information is accessible almost everywhere. And deservedly so, Media development is a central field of development policies. Therefore we needed a new, broad, interdisciplinary approach.

Modern media development is not just counting on journalists

Modern Media Development focalizes not only journalists. Why? Two core beliefs are guiding us. Firstly: People can only politically audible demand their basic rights if they have access to information. This question decides about education, knowledge, and eventually about personal freedom. Sometimes media even decide over war and peace, as for example in the Ukraine, Syria, or the Iraq.

Secondly, it is in the face of the rapid development of media, not enough anymore to only improve the journalists. If you want to sustainably strengthen the freedom of speech the approach must be broader since it is depending on multiple key factors if media are an engine for more development or just slowing it down:

  • Under which surrounding conditions can journalists work?
  • According to which criteria and professional standards is content produced?
  • Do all civil groups have access to media? Are their voices heard?
  • Can people handle the flow of information and use it?

For our 25 focus countries, we have to answer a lot of these questions with “No!”

Women on the country side of Burkina Faso, Kirgisistan or Bangladesh for instance have no voice in the media. Their topics don’t show up – and a whole range of other important topics don’t show up either: Education and health topics for example. Taboo topics are bypassed in a lot of the countries that we work in: That applies for the ongoing violence in Columbia as well as the recent past in Guatemala.  Gays and Lesbians in Uganda get politically harassed – excluded from the media or even haunted by media. Sometimes it is censorship, more often political one-sidedness of editorial departments, corruption or self-censorship leading towards these situations.

Successful and modern media development, the way that DW academy is doing it, is therefore intentionally focusing on a broad strategic approach. What does that mean concretely? It includes for example the work at political surrounding conditions – through guidance from government offices and NGOs. But it also means advising media and journalists with the development of new business models, so that they stay or become economically independent. We support professional interest groups between journalists, to more clearly represent and protect their interest in the dialogue with political decision makers.

Modern Media development  is working in multiple strategic fields. We count on different partners and project execution organisations – and we know: It takes a long breath if we want to be measurable and sustainable. Therefore we are working on long-lasting country strategies designed for three years and don’t just think from workshop to workshop.

Take regional differences seriously

One thing is for sure: The future for our journalists and media will be digital in most of our regions – and it has already started long time ago in some of them. A few examples out of practice: In Latin America for instance you’re falling over game-changing and innovative ideas especially in the digital area: Lots of those alternative media project on the web – one example is “Plaza Publica” in Guatemala, with whom DW Academy works together – focus on investigative research. They are run by committed citizen journalists and don’t have the support of a classic media company. Those projects take courage to address topics within research and reporting that “classical” media rather don’t or just tendentious cover. Amongst other things the refurbishment of military dictatorships. Developing countries are in many Media aspects on the fast lane!

It is important for actors in Media Development like DW Academy to get those actors into a dialogue: Just recently citizen journalists met up under the moderation of DW academy to discuss the question: How can digital technologies be used to strengthen the freedom of opinion?

Train users for the contact with (digital) media – media literacy

Whoever works in the media development, must also be a trend scout – Media Devlopers have to make a contribution to the future of media development – support innovative ideas especially in the digital area. Because media are being used as weapons in the IS’ digital jihad as well as Russia’s hybrid war in the Ukraine. The IS fighters are all digital natives. Russia’s media strategy is also highly efficient and targeted: Independent inland media do not exist anymore.

Human rights? They don’t play a role, neither in the digital jihad nor for the fight about heads of state propaganda bloggers – Just as little as for the hate preachers whose speeches are supposed to reach their audience through radio or TV. Therefore media development must promote the competence of dealing with media contents. This applies for social web-media as well as for conventional TV, radio or newspapers: If people call out on violence through radio stations in the Muslim north of Nigeria, or misinformation and warmongering is placed on Ukrainian or Russian web pages – then the users, listeners and viewers of such resources are demanded. They must distinguish between true and false, between facts and opinions or propaganda. With the offer “Media Literacy”, Media Development starts with the users so that hate speeches, propaganda, agitation and calls for violence do not find any echo.

Journalism is digital – and that worldwide, although at different speeds. The web is changing journalism fundamentally – from the research, over the dramaturgy and the question of how I tell a story in a multimedia way – and that demands new competencies and skills. Journalists all over the world therefore demand for offers by DW Academy in the field of digital work. What do participative journalistic offers on the web look like?  How can journalistic content be told and designed in a web suitable way? DW Academy is focusing on central key topics of the digital development: For us it’s about effective social media strategies for media actors, about ethical questions when working with social networks, about data journalism and research on the internet, digital security, as well as mobile reporting.

Not exporting ideas – Supporting partners on their own path

Thereby it’s not about importing nice development ideas or workshops from the global North – but about supporting target groups and partners to walk their own path. That is an exciting, demanding and enriching task.  Media Development – understood as an interdisciplinary and mutli-stakeholder issue means: to enhance and facilitate the access to information, to develop and strengthen solid professional content and to support people in rural areas to use media. And there is a common vision behind: to create sustainable structures and conditions to make good and professional content happen .