In 2018 the ECPMF registered 26 attacks on journalists in Germany

Concept of the enemy: in 2018 the ECPMF registered 26 attacks on journalists in Germany

Cases of phyiscal attacks against journalists in Germany (Jan 2015 - Dec 2018) – (Source ECPMF)

The campaign of the German political right against the 'lying press' ('Lügenpresse') has alarming consequences: The more frequent and the bigger the right-wing protests become, the greater the number of physical attacks against journalists. Here are some highlights from the ECPMF's latest report.

Even in Germany, the job of being a reporter carries its risks. The number of violent attacks on journalists has significantly increased. The ECPMF registered 26 such cases in 2018, and the overwhelming majority occurred at gatherings and demonstrations by right-wing organisations. Although the number of assaults for last year was not as a high as in 2015, as the ECPMF documented in its 'Concept of the enemy: journalist' report, flashpoints like the protests in the East German city of Chemnitz in Saxony contributed greatly to the recent increase in the number of attacks against journalists.

The ECPMF - based in Leipzig, Saxony - has registered violent attacks against journalists in Germany for the last four years. During this period, 96 such assaults took place. Alarmingly, 47 of those happened in Saxony alone, making this federal state by far the most dangerous for reporters who are trying to do their job. The Mitteldeutsche Rundfunk will broadcast the results of the full 2018 report on radio and television this Saturday.

The author of our latest report, Pauline Betche, explains her main finding:

It’s true that the number of verified attacks against journalists dropped in 2016 and 2017. But the trend has drastically reversed in 2018, showing that ‘lying-press'-related hate speech and its associated violence have become the main risk factor for journalists.”

The ECPMF’s data shows that with the exception of four attacks, all attacks against journalists in Germany were politically motivated from right-wingers and right-wing extremists. In 20 out of 22 cases, attacks against journalists took place at right-wing gatherings. Hence, our statistical analysis clearly shows a correlation between right-wing mobilisations and attacks against journalists. In other words, the more right-wing protests, the more physical attacks against journalists.

Furthermore, our qualitative analysis uncovered two main forms of violence against journalists: In addition to targeted attacks from organised right-wing groups, we find more and more attacks from 'normal' demonstrators who lash out at journalists in the heat of the moment. However, the results of both forms of violence is one and the same: journalists are injured or threatened for simply doing their job.

In the meantime, politicians have taken action. In September 2018, the chairperson of the Federal Conference of Ministers of the Interior said that they would make law enforcement agents more aware of the code of conduct between the media and police, a document developed in the 1990s. Many journalists have continuously complained about the lack of protection provided to them by security forces during protests and demonstrations.

Says Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director of the ECPMF:

Journalists require special police protection during demonstrations by populist and extremist organisations. It is unacceptable that media outlets have to hire private security guards to protect their reporters and that independent journalists are left to fend for themselves, as they fear becoming targets of violence.”

He further stated: "We need more and better-trained police officers in demonstrations like Chemnitz. We also need to be clearly aware that this violence is provoked by the vilification of the media by referring to them as 'lying press.'"

Feindbild 3 Grafik EN Comparison of participation in right-wing demonstrations and right-wing attacks on journalists 2015-2018

Should this situation continue, the ECPMF believes that nuanced, diverse, on-the-spot reporting will become impossible. This also endangers the constitutional freedom of the press.

In the past, the ECPMF, under the direction of media researcher Martin Hoffmann, had already systematically examined assaults on journalists. He verified 43 cases in the year 2015, which remains the shameful front-runner.