Our first impressions from the seminarSeptember 3, 2017 | O.W.
How often does one get a chance to compare the media in the different EU countries through spontaneously interviewing passers-by in the vibrant streets of Berlin? Turns out that was exactly what our small trinational Czech-German-Polish team did as a part of the exchange program “Check against delivery” dedicated to raising awareness for freedom of speech and its limits. Having met just 3 days ago at the European Academy Berlin, we (Olena, Patrick and Evgenia) have already shared a lot of insightful, challenging and funny experiences together that we want to share with you in our first article on this blog.
As we all study politics or economy-related subjects, exploring the topic of media and journalism in the EU was already a challenge itself. Participating in the “silent discussion”, we were trying to reflect on such issues as the limits of freedom of speech, sacrificing some of our privacy in the name of security, the outcome of the European crisis and being European itself. Even though our opinions were divided and we didn’t come to a common conclusion, the discussion gave us an insight into the perspectives of other exchange participants and gave us something to think of. Nevertheless, our group thought it would be even more interesting to organize a “typical” discussion afterwards, as we feel like we didn’t explore these topics to the full extent.
One of the biggest challenges laying ahead of us was to explore people’s opinions on the freedom of speech, the EU values and their personal perspectives on media’s influence over citizens’ approach towards the EU related topics. Our respondents were from three countries – Scotland, Luxembourg and Switzerland, which brought us an insight into a non-EU country as well. It turned out to be quite challenging to discuss the issues mentioned above with random people who were passing by, but our respondents showed a will to discuss our questions and their replies were reflecting the national backgrounds they had. Scottish people showed a desire to stay in the EU and therefore they put a huge importance into calling a new independence referendum, since the UK’s citizens voted for “Brexit” in 2016. They claimed that the British media played a big role even in the “Brexit” result itself through conducting a media fear campaign. On the other hand, the Luxembourgish couple we interviewed afterwards showed a really positive approach towards the EU integration processes and they stated that there is almost no EU-negative media in their country. They also mentioned that they are actually gaining profit from the Brexit since it’s attracting more banks into their country. We also talked to a couple of Swiss people that turned out to be a really interesting case as well since they mentioned that the media in their countries are divided along the language lines. They stated that the German-speaking media is mostly negative towards the EU, while the French-speaking media is social-democratic and pro-EU. Another interesting point according to the interviewed Swiss was that the most easily accessible media in Switzerland are free newspapers that present a biased or incomplete news picture. While there are also more serious sources, they consume much more time to analyze and for that reason are not read by most of the people.
Overall, the experience of finding out the views of the usual European people on the media representation in their countries was a very enriching experience, not just education-wise but also personally. While it was difficult to approach strangers on the streets and talk to them about such complex topics, it was really rewarding to gain an insight from this new perspective and challenge ourselves this way.