Bad Godesberg · Some 40 people demonstrated in front of the Russian consulate in Bad Godesberg on World Press Freedom Day. The focus was on paying tribute to the journalists who died in the war in Ukraine.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday, the German Journalists' Association called for demonstrations for peace and press freedom in front of Russian diplomatic missions. In Bonn, about 40 people gathered in front of the consulate in Bad Godesberg. At the same time, demonstrations took place in Berlin, Leipzig, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg and Munich.
At the centre of the demonstration was paying tribute to the journalists who died as a result of the war in Ukraine. Deutsche Welle staff member Dmytro Hubenko called out the names of a total of ten of his dead colleagues in front of the closed iron gate of the consulate. "Today we want to pay tribute to these people who we already know lost their lives because of the Russian war of aggression," Hubenko said. Unfortunately, we have to fear that there are and will be more. We do not know how many have been taken prisoner in Russia and are facing interrogation."
Remembering the fates of killed journalists
Among others, Hubenko named US reporter Brent Renaud, the first foreign journalist killed in the war, Russian investigative journalist Oksana Baulina, killed by a missile attack on a residential area in Kiev on 23 March, and Maks Levin, the well-known war photographer with whom Hubenko was personally acquainted. DJV national board member Stefan Lenz specifically referred to the Russian president in his speech: "Mr Putin and his warmongers will not defeat press freedom. We are never completely gone," said Lenz.
He recalled earlier demonstrations in front of what was then the Russian Embassy in the mid-1980s, when a petition for the release of a captured Russian journalist was turned down. "Even though this cannot be compared, but a few years later the Soviet Union collapsed. Of course, we have to fear that actions like this one today will have little effect. But they always have a small effect. We just have to hope that we currently do not see yet where we stand today," said the journalist.
Ex-Russia correspondent sharply critical
Journalist and songwriter Gerd Schinkel contributed self-composed and Ukrainian peace songs to the demonstration. Horst Kläuser, long-time Russia correspondent for broadcaster ARD, reminded the audience that even before the war, press freedom had "long since ceased to be a matter of course" in Russia. "Many people I was privileged to know during my time in Russia are dead today," he remarked, calling to mind, among others, the name of Anna Politkovskaya, a journalist critical of Putin who was murdered in the hallway of her apartment building.
According to Kläuser, there is no longer any free media in Russia. "Every radio station, every newspaper, whether in the cities or the provinces, is now in government hands or owned by an oligarch loyal to the Kremlin," Kläuser said. "I don't want to absolve individual Russians of a certain war-mongering. However, you can no longer get free and unfiltered information anywhere in Russia. The mood is deliberately steered by the media."
Letter to the Consul General remains unanswered
During the demonstration, the activists had to practice solidarity not only symbolically. There had been an order to protest only on the side of the street opposite the consulate. The demonstrators were not allowed to step on the side belonging to the Russian property.
"We had sent a letter to the consul general in advance, which remained unanswered," explained organiser and DJV managing director Volkmar Kah. By now, the consulate is familiar with similar activities. Since the beginning of the war, people have gathered for a vigil at the main entrance every Thursday and Friday from 10 am to 12 pm on the initiative of the Bonn Green Party.
"That's where most of the public traffic takes place. Some people who go out or in show us very clearly that they don't agree with the war and Russia's policies," said Ute Hennig, an associate member of the Green Party's district executive. "As long as the war continues, we would like to continue with this and hope more and more people will join in." Yevheniia Skrypnyk from Kharkiv, who has been living in Bonn for a year, always takes part. Her parents had already fled the megacity to the countryside weeks ago, she said. "They are in a reinforced bunker-like building with other people and can hear explosions every day. Compared to others, they are doing well under the circumstances."
The young Ukrainian has resolved to come to every demonstration. "We show that we will never tolerate or accept the Russian regime's plans." (Original article: Jakub Drogowski / Translation: Jean Lennox)