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15.01.2016

"Lying Press" – German MPs invite ECPMF to discuss threats

ECPMF reporter Martin Hoffmann has briefed MPs on the rising number of attacks against journalists, as Germany’s refugee crisis erupts in political violence.

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Martin Hoffmann ECPMF Martin Hoffmann (ECPMF) at the media and culture commitee of the german parliament. He talks about the ECPMF Fact Finding Mission (screenshot: German Parliament)

He presented the findings of our fact finding mission to the Media and Culture Committee of the German Parliament, (the Bundestag) on 13th of January. At least 49 attacks have been notified for 2015 so far, as ECPMF Fact Finding Mission revealed. It also indicates, that this massive increase is linked to the growing strength of populist movements such as Pegida and Legida (anti-Islam, anti-immigration) and Alternative für Deutschland AfD (nationalist, ultra-right) and the antifascist and anarchist opposition groups.

Britta Hilpert, a reporter for the national TV network ZDF, was attacked while reporting from an AfD demonstration. She chairs the German branch of Reporters Without Borders and told the Committee:

You have to realise, that you now live in a country where some journalists are afraid to do their job.

These developments are also seen as a threat to journalists by Frank Überall, head of the German Journalists Union(DJV): "A few years ago I could not imagine that something  like this would happen in Germany". He published his blog "Eyewitness info" augenzeugen.info (in German) at the briefing. Überall is using the blog to collect interviews and eyewitness-reports of attacks. He also demanded more support from the police and the courts.

It’s a demand that ECPMF shares, as our Fact Finding Mission proved that journalists are exposed to a new quality and quantity of aggression - especially while covering extremist situations. Martin Hoffmann summarised the key finding at the Bundestag panel, which was attended by 15 MPs and a number of  senior editors.

Stefan Raue is editor –in- chief of MDR, the public service broadcaster in Saxony. This eastern region, formerly part of the Communist-controlled German Democratic Republic, is heavily affected. Raue told the Committee he "refuses to enter the battle with the populists", who publicly inflame the hatred against journalists. It was generally agreed by all panel members that these movements enforce the aggression against journalists by constantly speaking of a conspiracy of the German government and United States influence which they call the "Lying press"  ("Lügenpresse").

Jaafar Abdul-Karim, a broadcast reporter at Deutsche Welle, was physically attacked while covering Pegida-demonstration in Dresden. He told how Pegida followers refused to speak to the media, which in their eyes is not telling the truth. Despite his experience he would return to report the Monday demonstrations which happen every week in Dresden, as he won't let himself be influenced by the assaults on journalists.

Tom Strohschneider, editor–in- chief of Neues Deutschland, a left-wing newspaper, said that the number of death-threats received by his staff increased heavily from the middle of 2015 onwards. He is sceptical about the idea that police should provide personal protection to journalists, as this would prevent journalists from freely covering demonstrations. It’s alarming, he said, that there is a tendency towards barbarianism in society, which can be observed on the Internet and now on the streets.  

Martin Hoffmann the ECPMF researcher who conducted the Fact Finding Mission summed up in his final statement:

We need the support of politicians and media companies and solidarity with journalists. This is essential to change the situation for the better.

Sigmund Ehrmann, chair of the Parliamentary Committee, said the hearing would definitely not be the end of the debate as press freedom is one of the fundamental rights that keep democracy stable. 


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