On 9 October 1989 around 70,000 people took to the streets in the East German city of Leipzig, despite the threat of a command to shoot. With candles in their hands, they peacefully demanded more freedom and democracy in the GDR – a decisive catalyst for the start of the Peaceful Revolution that finally led to the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the call "Wir sind das Volk" [We are the People] and "No Violence", people gathered to march across the Leipzig inner-city ring road.
The Peaceful Revolution in the former GDR began in 1989 in Leipzig. People gathered together to pray at St. Nicholas Church, then protested in the streets by tens of thousands. The courageous citizens of this city effectively defied state authority, demanding – not least of all – freedom of expression and the press. Much like the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig with all of its sponsorship activities, the “Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media”, first awarded in 2001, stands in the tradition of the Peaceful Revolution.
The Leipzig Media Prize is expressly not about a bold and daring feat of journalism or an exceptional piece of journalistic work. The prize is intended for distinguished journalists, publishers and media institutions from around the world that are committed to the cause of protecting and expanding freedom of the press, and in doing so display a willingness to take risks, great personal commitment, persistence, courage and a firm belief in democracy. The list of prizewinners from the last years clearly demonstrates what the prize is about.
Ruling elites in many countries around the world use dubious media laws, pressure on journalists and publishers, paternalism in radio and television, and state censorship as instruments of power. But also processes of economic concentration and self-censorship endanger the plurality of expression and are an obstacle to independent reporting. Journalists themselves bow to the dictates of shareholders and compromise their credibility by publishing too quickly.
The previous prizewinners resisted these threats and temptations.
It is the aim of the Leipzig Media Foundation to embolden the spirits of them and others.
9 October 2016 | Augustusplatz – 8.00 p.m.
The dramatic events of Autumn of 1989 encourage people even today. The remembrance of those days is kept alive by the citizens of Leipzig in many ways, in particular, the commemoration of the 9th of October. On this day, the focus will be on the Prayer for Peace and the Speech on Democracy at St. Nicholas Church, as well as on the Leipzig Festival of Lights at Augustusplatz.
At the original settings, Leipzig people and guests of the city remember together the historic events 27 years ago. With exhibitions, panel discussions, film screenings, readings and many other formats, a wide range of events will reach every year thousands of visitors of all generations.