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Aarau Democracy Days 2017 Media ‘crucial’ in creating transparency

Panel discussion at the 2017 Aarau Democracy Days: Iwan Rickenbacher, Susanne Wille, Pascale Bruderer (host), Peter Wanner and Roger Schawinski (from left to right).


Can the traditional media still fulfill their role as watchdog in a direct democracy when social media increasingly set the pace? A panel with four prominent speakers at this year’s Aarau Democracy Days came up with some interesting insights.

It was a frank but fair exchange of opinions between Susanne Wille, a renowned political journalist at Swiss public television SRF, the media entrepreneur and private media pioneer Roger Schawinksi, Peter Wanner, chairman of the AZ Medien publishing house, and Iwan Rickenbacher, communications expert and former political party manager.

The event in the Swiss town of Aarau at the Centre for Democracy Studies was opened by a German communications expert from Hamburg University. Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw presented new research results about the rapidly changing media and the impact of digitalisation on media use.

Here’s a selection of statements, originally in German, by the five participants at Thursday’s event.

“Digitalisation has speeded up the media and brought more diversity and sovereignty. But an increasing number of ‘disconnected citizens’ use the larger offering and the new freedoms for non-political information.”

Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw, Hamburg University

End of quote

“My job has changed a lot through the presence of social media. Major debates on social media start right after my report has been aired. Television viewers give both criticism and praise. It is the duty of journalists to engage in these debates on social media.”

Susanne Wille, journalist SRF public TV

End of quote

“For those who get their information exclusively online, Facebook and the 20 Minutes freesheet have taken over the role as medium of integration from Swiss public television SRF.”

Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw

End of quote

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“The motives for working as a journalist have remained the same: to inform, research, ask critical questions and create transparency. And to entertain people.”

Iwan Rickenbacher, communications expert and former party manager

End of quote

 “It’s dreadful to read readers’ feedback. The media have a responsibility to set limits. Serious media have started doing this but more needs to be done.”

Roger Schawinksi, media entrepreneur and private media pioneer

End of quote

“The biggest responsibility lies with Facebook, which even allows crime. It has to intervene more strongly: not through censure but through curation.”

Peter Wanner, chairman of the AZ Medien publishing house

End of quote

“Democracy means giving space to different opinions. Social media allows me to hear these opinions more clearly and gets us journalists more in touch with voters.”

Susanne Wille

End of quote

“It is a journalistic craft to generate clicks. Well-researched stories are also published on online media, but they have to be sold well. It takes great skill to write good titles and do good storytelling. But many are not yet up to the job.”

Peter Wanner

End of quote

“Nobody can afford to ignore the interest of the greater public because nobody has sovereignty of interpretation or the absolute power in their own distribution area. This promotes quality.”

Iwan Rickenbacher

End of quote

“It is a core task for the media to create transparency. Particularly in a direct democracy, because it is a demanding system.”

Katharina Kleinen-von Königslöw

End of quote

Aarau Democracy Days 2017external link

This report is published in the context of the 9th edition of Democracy Days organised by the Centre for Democracy Studies in Aarauexternal link.

The two-day event on March 16/17 focuses on the role of the media in a direct democracy.

#DearDemocracy, the democracy platform of, is a media partner of the event.

end of infobox

Adapted from German by Urs Geiser,

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