Reporters Without Borders Germany launches “The First Speech” campaign

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At its 30th anniversary, Reporters Without Borders Germany (RSF) launches “The First Speech” – a campaign exposing the hopeful,  beautiful words used by modern autocrats when becoming presidents, but who quickly turn against human rights and independent journalism. An observation that is supported by the campaign’s tagline “The loss of freedom is never obvious at first.”. 

The initiative is strategically launched during a pivotal moment for democracy: 2024 is the biggest electoral year in history, with over 80 countries holding elections and an estimated 4 billion voters heading to the polls.  

Created by Innocean Berlin in collaboration with Stink Films Berlin, the campaign includes a series of films, posters, digital out-of-home, and social media. 

In the three films, directed by Giordano Maestrelli, we hear segments from the very first speeches of Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Nicolás Maduro when becoming presidents, each filled with pretty promises about safeguarding freedom and democracy. With cinematography by Konrad Losch, the visuals portray citizens from these countries tuning into their newly elected leaders through radio or TV, on the day when the speech took place. The films will air in movie theatres in Germany and RSF Germany’s YouTube channel. 

The campaign’s call-to-action “Trust the Free Press. Not Pretty Words” underscores the urgent need to rely on independent journalism as a weapon against autocratic manipulation and calls on audiences to support press freedom by donating to RSF. 

The long copy posters and digital out-of-homes utilises the same first speeches, only this time in contrast with pictures of journalists from Russia, Turkey and Venezuela, including World Press Photo awarded Bülent Kılıç, in the exact moment they found themselves detained or targeted by the then-turned oppressive government. 

Gabriel Mattar, CCO of Innocean Berlin about the project: 

“Reporters Without Borders turns 30 years in 2024 and that also culminates with the biggest election year in history. To mark the occasion, we decided to remind everyone that the free press is fundamental to have a democracy with educated voters. Because the loss of freedom is not always obvious at first.” 

Sylvie Ahrens-Urbanek, Head of Communications at RSF Germany: 

“During a crucial year for democracy, we wanted to pay tribute to it with a strong message that reflects our commitment to point fingers at those who go against independent journalism and human rights.” 

Giordano Maestrelli, Director at Stink Films says:

It’s not every day that you can direct a campaign that relies on simplicity as its’ more powerful asset, with no trickery, just pure cinematic language. My goal was never just about shining a light into the past, but rewriting both what once was and what it’ll be. It’s a seed of doubt and awareness planted into the viewers mind in order to make them evaluate their own realities.

Moritz Merkel, Executive Producer at Stink Films Berlin says: “

As a film producer, there’s a profound thrill in steering projects that champion democracy and uphold the sanctity of a free press. Every frame becomes a testament to the power of storytelling in shaping societies and safeguarding our liberties”, 

Florian Hülbig, Head of Stink Rising Berlin.

”It’s not just about making movies; it’s about amplifying voices that challenge, inspire, and ignite change, reminding us that in the pursuit of truth, press becomes a potent force for democracy”

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