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  • The Ambassador of Germany about the Media Influence, Information Security, and the Future for Eastern Europe

    The Ambassador of Germany to Belarus Peter Dettmar has been interviewed by the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The BAJ Press Service officers inquired the Ambassador about the future of Eastern Europe, the information security and the influence of new media on the public opinion.

    — Your Excel­len­cy, could we start with easy ques­tions, please? It is sum­mer time now. It is the usu­al time for diplo­mats to go on hol­i­days. Do you have any spe­cial plans for your hol­i­days this year?

    — As for me, I will go on hol­i­days since mid-August this year. As an exclu­sion to the gen­er­al rule, it will con­sist of two parts this time. First­ly, we will take a short tour to the Baltics. Then, we will go to the sub­urb of Berlin, as usu­al, where our fam­i­ly house is locat­ed.

    — Are there any places in Belarus you like most of all?

    — Gen­er­al­ly, I like trav­el­ling across your coun­try, since you can observe such splen­did views out of your car win­dow. How­ev­er, I’ve been impressed with two-three vis­its to Belavezh­skaya Pushcha and some cities most of all. I would­n’t like to offend the dwellers of oth­er local­i­ties, but I real­ly appre­ci­at­ed vis­it­ing the cities of Hrod­na, Polatsk, and Vit­sieb­sk, which got sig­nif­i­cant­ly improved in the recent years. Also, e.g. the city of Brest with its cen­tral part and pedes­tri­an area is to my lik­ing.

    — You have notices changes in the images of our cities. Have you also noticed any changes in the soci­ety since the time of your arrival in the coun­try?

    — None of fun­da­men­tal changes have tak­en place in the Belaru­sian soci­ety as a whole. How­ev­er, I have such an impres­sion that in com­par­i­son with the first peri­od of my stay in your coun­try in 2009–2013, the Belaru­sian soci­ety has become more con­fi­dent and more open-mind­ed to a cer­tain extent. These are my per­son­al obser­va­tions, and they can be argued indeed.

    — You applied for being del­e­gat­ed to Belarus for the sec­ond time. Appar­ent­ly, Belarus is not the eas­i­est coun­try for a diplo­mat. Is it easy for you to work here?

    — First of all, I would like to note that none of the coun­tries, where I worked, was easy. I can tell you a lot of sto­ries about oth­er coun­tries of the world that show Belarus as a prac­ti­cal­ly ide­al case com­pared to them. At the same time, it is more inter­est­ing and excit­ing to work in the com­pli­cat­ed states. I would­n’t say that my work in your coun­try is linked to some spe­cial dif­fi­cul­ties.

    — Could you share some of the sto­ries from your expe­ri­ence to com­pare Belarus with oth­er states?

    — The pub­lic ser­vices oper­ate here per­fect­ly well. The sphere of pub­lic admin­is­tra­tive pro­ce­dures is arranged effi­cient­ly. Due to the fact, e.g. it is pos­si­ble to have your car reg­is­tered and com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nels updat­ed in no time. In my opin­ion, Belarus has high-qual­i­ty and quite high-speed Inter­net con­nec­tion. There’s a whole range of things that look absolute­ly dif­fer­ent in oth­er coun­tries of the world in com­par­i­son with your coun­try. I won’t men­tion the states, since it would be impo­lite. How­ev­er, e.g. the reg­is­tra­tion of my car in Belarus took two days. At the same time, the same pro­ce­dure would require more than half a year in a dif­fer­ent coun­try of the world. Obvi­ous­ly, it makes a con­sid­er­able dif­fer­ence in the qual­i­ty of life in the coun­tries.

    — The prob­lem of secu­ri­ty in Europe has become a pri­or­i­ty issue of pub­lic con­cern. The real­i­ty has changed con­sid­er­ably since the recent years. The seri­ous chal­lenges con­cern every­one. We won­der if your coun­try has changed since recent years in con­nec­tion with the grow­ing flow of migrants and the lack of per­son­al safe­ty both out­doors and at home.

    —Glob­al­ly, it can be stat­ed that the ‘old’ notion of secu­ri­ty we expe­ri­enced 5–10 and even 20 years ago is not valid any longer.  Obvi­ous­ly, the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in the Mid­dle East and in Africa, includ­ing the so-called ‘migrants’ cri­sis’, has exert­ed impact on the Euro­pean Union as a whole and Ger­many in par­tic­u­lar. As you prob­a­bly know, Ger­many host­ed the largest quan­ti­ty of asy­lum-seek­ers in 2015 and in the fol­low­ing months. No doubt, it makes the Ger­man soci­ety con­cerned with the trend. You cer­tain­ly know how many ter­ror attacks and acts of vio­lence have tak­en place since the recent two years in France, the Unit­ed King­dom, and Ger­many. The acci­dents inevitably make the soci­ety wor­ried and con­cerned. In these cir­cum­stances, politi­cians should intend to ensure pub­lic safe­ty for all coun­try res­i­dents, both the cit­i­zens and the migrants. The safe­ty poli­cies should be equal for every­one.

    How­ev­er, should you ask me if I feel very anx­ious in Ger­many, I would tell you that I’m not, since the sit­u­a­tion is far from being extreme­ly grave. On the oth­er hand, I’m per­son­al­ly very wor­ried with the fact that the readi­ness to prac­tise vio­lence is extreme­ly high all over the world nowa­days. It con­cerns both the sphere of high pol­i­tics and the grass-root lev­el of pub­lic rela­tions. I don’t have any clear expla­na­tion for this phe­nom­e­non, but I con­sid­er it to be a high­ly wor­ry­ing issue indeed.

    — Talk­ing about the Ger­man mass media, do you think that they cov­er the sit­u­a­tion with the asy­lum-seek­ers and the dan­gers of ter­ror attacks in the prop­er way? Are there any cas­es, when the Ger­man media dis­sem­i­nate some rad­i­cal appeals?

    — No, there aren’t def­i­nite­ly any cas­es of this kind there. When I look through on-line media every now and then I come across quite fre­quent crit­i­cal remarks, blam­ing the print and broad­cast media for cov­er­ing the issues in the extreme­ly reserved way. Our news­pa­pers and pub­lic broad­cast media nev­er deal with stir­ring up the rad­i­cal­iza­tion of our soci­ety in their reports. Just on the con­trary, they intend to avoid pre­sen­ta­tion of any rad­i­cal views in their mate­ri­als.

    — Our media space is some­times filled with dis­tant man­i­fes­ta­tions of provoca­tive ‘leaks’, such as a sto­ry with a girl, named Liza, or sto­ries with par­tic­i­pa­tion of asy­lum-seek­ers. Do we wit­ness ran­dom or sys­tem­atized attempts to aggra­vate the present-day sit­u­a­tion?

    — Every­one decides for him­self whether the cas­es are ran­dom or sys­tem­atized. To my mind, they can be regard­ed as ran­dom.

    I think that we failed to get it well long time ago what effects could mass media cre­ate through their con­stant­ly broad­en­ing chan­nels.

    Con­se­quent­ly, we appeared unpre­pared for the immense influ­ence of elec­tron­ic media on the pub­lic opin­ion and pub­lic trends. It is only since recent­ly that the whole scope of this impact has become well under­stood, when dis­cus­sions about fake news and sim­i­lar phe­nom­e­na have become wide-spread in the soci­ety. I would­n’t regard it straight­for­ward­ly as a ‘dan­ger­ous’ process, but it should be close­ly con­sid­ered from the polit­i­cal point of view for sure.

    We’ve cre­at­ed the fan­tas­tic world of the Inter­net, on-line and social media, which we use, includ­ing Face­book, Twit­ter, Google, Wiki etc. All of us have been excit­ed with the won­der­ful new open world.  How­ev­er, we dis­re­gard­ed the neg­a­tive con­se­quences of its exis­tence, in my opin­ion. Thus, any per­son can share cer­tain opin­ion, con­nect­ed to a cer­tain event, hav­ing noth­ing in com­mon with the real­i­ty. Con­se­quent­ly, each of us has to ask your­self how deeply you should inves­ti­gate the issue, in order to get it clear if it is true or false, if it’s pro­pa­gan­da or not. As well as in order to under­stand how dis­sem­i­na­tion of this report may influ­ence cer­tain events in dif­fer­ent coun­tries.

    — Could you kind­ly reveal your per­son­al infor­ma­tion sources? Is it Rus­sia today, Radio Lib­er­ty, Süd­deutsche Zeitung? What is your per­son­al selec­tion of mass media you read? Do you have any pre­ferred media among the Belaru­sian news resources?

    — Tak­ing into account the said above, you cer­tain­ly under­stand that I do not have time to look through all the men­tioned media in prin­ci­ple. I get around 40–50 brief news reports on Europe and East­ern Europe from the Ger­man Press Agency every day. These are brief facts only. Addi­tion­al­ly, I watch TV-news on ARD and ZDF once a day and read Die Zeit week­ly that pro­vides com­ments and detailed analy­ses of events, dwelling upon their rea­sons in the pre­cise way. As for the Belaru­sian media, I must con­fess I’m too lazy and lack­ing time to indulge in read­ing texts in Russ­ian. There­fore, I adress to the media with the Eng­lish ver­sion, includ­ing BelTA, Bela­PAN, and TUT.BY, first of all.

    — What is your vision of East­ern Europe in twen­ty years? Do you have any ide­al vision in this respect?

    — I see it as a large com­mu­ni­ty of nations, liv­ing in peace and under­stand­ing that only due to exert­ing com­mon efforts and avoid­ing con­flicts it will be pos­si­ble to have hap­py and nor­mal future for our chil­dren. Maybe, it is not easy to imag­ine nowa­days, but we should do every­thing pos­si­ble to make it a real­i­ty.

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