Visual journalists as easy prey
At the very frequent gatherings of the so-called -GIDA movements (regional branches of Pegida are often named according to the name of the town, e.g. Legida, Thürgida, Bärgida) protesters meet directly with the press as part of the concept of their enemy - and very often feel harassed, overwhelmed and provoked by journalists, as countless sound bites and Vox Pops indicate: "Switch off the camera" or "Don´t shoot me" are the countlessly repeated requests of protesters, which journalists tend to ignore when they pursue their professional duties as usual. It is a conflict of interest, which some participants want to solve with threats or violence. The journalist becomes a provocateur in their eyes.
This thesis is strengthened if one takes a look at the cases we currently know. More than half of the victims of physical violence are camera crews and photographers. One reason: they are easier to identify than their print counterparts. But there might be another one: because it seems to the demonstrators as if photographers and camera crew use their equipment against the will of most participants and “shoot” them.
The “lying press” – no new phenomenon
They are also more visible from a distance, which makes them an easy target if someone plans to attack them. And they are stronger symbols, if somebody wants to express his displeasure or extreme political views through a direct attack. In spite of a lack of reliable information - what one could learn from the media coverage and police reports is that the offenders seem to belong in large parts to right-wing extremist circles assumed to operate among the protesters. That is feasible, since both the concept of "lying press" as well as direct threats and violence against journalists and media houses have not appeared for first time with Pegida, AfD and Co. but quite a time before. Already in May 2012 rightwing offenders sprayed the words "lying press - shut up" on an affiliate of the Lausitzer Rundschau-newspaper in Spremberg in the state of Brandenburg (close to Saxony) - right next to right wing slogans. More comparable attacks followed in recent years in Saxony and Brandenburg.
Before the assaults which were connected to the "lying press"- debate caused the headlines in the papers, the Dortmund region become negatively famous for attacks on journalists. Known as a centre of the right-wing scene, journalists have been threatened, attacked or even terrorized at home for critical comments and reporting on the scene. In addition, the extreme-right squads were creative in very macabre way: They released obituaries of critical journalists, bloggers and photographers in the social networks. Previously, in the autumn of 2014 at a demonstration by the hooligan network Hogesa in Cologne, intimidations against journalists occurred. Similar violence was observed later like in the vicinity of -GIDA demonstrations.
Extremists as alleged offenders
The Leipzig police recognized a strongly marked tendency to violence from the "hooligan clientele” among the Leipzig Legida-participants who “had been spotted regularly on the demonstrations”, said Leipzig police spokesman Andreas Loepki. In particular these clearly radicalized circles present a high risk to journalists. Radio reporter Merten Waage experienced this on 21 January 2015, when he reported from the first large Legida event. He was chased by a mob there. He believes this was a planned, not a spontaneous action: "They had disguised themselves and were clearly searching for counter-demonstrators or anyone to be aggressive or violent. Just the fact that they all reacted to a sign by one person shouting "go, go" and all were rushing forward is a proof to me."
Such descriptions, intelligence of the security authorities, the long history of right-wing violence against individual journalists and the fact that the majority of assaults in the area occurred from right-wing and right-wing extremist events pointed in many, but not all, cases to a particular offender circle: extreme right-wing activists, who are already radicalized and "use" the populist movements as confirmation or to disguise their actions. This development matches up with the heavily growing number of attacks against party offices and private property, as of the Left party or of the AfD, conducted from both extreme political blocs. At least one attack on media workers has also been reported from leftist counter-demonstrators in Dresden.
No matter what political background, whether radical or civil, the perpetrators of violence against journalists and media houses have been found only in individual cases by the police or were detained afterwards. This is also due to the fact that not many of the cases reported by the press were announced, as the Leipzig police states.
Police acts at its limits
In the public another reason was discussed: despite the deployment of thousands of officers, the police appeared overwhelmed at the first demonstrations of Legida and Pegida. At this time they did not intervene despite obvious threats or attacks. Some report that this is still the case today for Pegida-demonstrations in Dresden. In Leipzig journalists were attacked and spat on, standing right next to the ranks of riot police. The Leipzig police see this as "inglorious weak point” from which they have learned. But Andreas Loepki, head of press of the police department of Leipzig also says: "We can’t provide personal security to every journalist".
He adds that the defects could not be explained by the re-structuring of personnel to reduce the number of police. This would hardly have had any influence on the current situations. It seems the analysis of Dirk Birgel, editor in chief of the regional paper Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten, who had to recognize some massive attacks on his editors, will apply in future: “The people inclined to let their fists rule can be relatively sure to get away with it, as nobody catches them red-handed. Considering the potential for aggression of some individual participants at the demonstration, they are inadequately secured.”
read more ...