Speech

Address by Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen 2nd International Conference on Global Investigative Journalism

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Ladies and Gentlemen

It gives me great pleasure to open this 2nd International Conference on Global Investigative Journalism.

It is obvious that the times we live in have greatly heightened interest in this important subject - as is illustrated by the fact that you have come from approximately 50 countries in order to meet and share your experience, ideas and methods.

We live in a world of constant changes. Just witness the last two years. If we, the public, and I include myself here, are to obtain a greater understanding of the world about us - the immediate and global perspectives - we need you journalists to investigate, discover the facts and explain them. The details - the finer nuances - and the wider implications. You are the eyes and ears of the world in places where most of the world cannot go. Or perhaps dare not go. You subject political systems, justice and injustices to your close scrutiny. You are to be found at the heart of world events, as they unfold and as they happen. You seem to have this uncanny knack of catching the scent of these events before most of the rest of the world is aware of them.

And the rest of the world needs this.

A wise person once said, that news is information that someone is trying to hide. And the rest of the newspaper is just text. As a politician, the latter is important and necessary to me, but as a citizen and a democrat, it is the former that is vital. Investigative journalism in the pursuit of uncovering this hidden information is in fact one the most important elements in a liberal democracy – both here in Denmark and around the world.

Therefore it’s a paradox, that journalists in the very countries that need more of this democratic element often find themselves seriously restrained in pursuing their democratic function as investigative journalists. Today you have come here to Copenhagen from 50 countries from around the world – some of you from countries where this paradox exists still today.

It’s therefore my hope that all of you will benefit from this conference. Hopefully, the conference will inspire a continued flow of the important investigative news stories. And hopefully the genre will be strengthened in a wider number of countries.

Strong and continued investigative journalism thus hopefully leads to more transparency and openness in the systems that are being scrutinized.

Anyone who has followed recent events here in Demark cannot fail to be aware that the Danish Government, and myself, are advocates of transparency. We made this clear from the moment we took office in 2001. We have done our best to build a public sector which is simple, open and which listens to its electorate - and its press. We firmly believe that there can be no true, healthy democracy where there is no freedom of speech and no access to information. And this includes transparency around the political decision-making processes.

You can see our ideas reflected in a number of specific areas.

We place great importance on holding open press conferences every week - transmitted live on TV - with no filtering.

As early as 1987 we already had our Act on Public Access to Documents in Administrative Files which enable the public and the press access and insight in the workings of our public administration. However, times have changed since then and, with them, Danish society. We feel that this Act is no longer adequate. We have therefore established a commission to review the Act and to propose amendments to bring it more in line with modern requirements and technology.

Those of you who covered the Danish EU Presidency last year will be aware of the priority given to transparency. We did our best to ensure the press and the public with opportunities to follow what was going on in the EU and our Presidency. A concrete example of this was our comprehensive internet site, a number of open debates in the European Council and our efforts to ensure transparency around the administration of the EU and the work of the Convention.

Another reflection of our desire for transparency was a Danish TV documentary focusing on my role as President of the European Union during the Danish EU Presidency. A programme which did not go unnoticed. In fact it proved to be the source of a great deal of debate. I have received many positive responses, but also those which were less positive from people who had difficulty in accepting the need for such transparency.

However, I firmly believe that this was a good way for the public to gain insight into the political processes.

Having said this, I must state that there are, naturally, limits to transparency. It is impossible to state precisely where the line must be drawn - 'thus far and no further' - but sometimes we do not need to be told. Our own sense of responsibility will tell us. Some decisions and negotiations must, of necessity, take place behind closed doors. There are certain items of information which simply cannot be published and become part of the public domain - perhaps for security reasons. That’s just the way it is - and I am sure that you all understand this.

But, in general, I think that politics are best served by as much transparency as possible.

Which is why I am so pleased to see, here today, participants from countries where the press in general, and investigative journalists in particular, face difficult conditions. Denmark already provides financial support for a number of these countries. It is my earnest hope that this conference will provide you with moral support and help boost important projects in the time to come.

Ladies and gentlemen,

You have a long and interesting programme ahead in the coming days. Old friends will meet and new friendships will be forged. The networks you set up here, at this conference should inspire a continued flow of the important investigative news stories that you master so well. Between you, you possess strong resources. Use these resources and use this conference as tool to strengthen and develop your profession so that the world will never again remain in ignorance of those events which affect all our lives.

Thank you for your attention.