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A lack of criminal prosecution
Michael Hiller, chief of  the Saxony Journalist Union DJV reports on discussions in the Ministry of Interior, where it was clearly stated to him that the "police is not at the site to protect the journalists, but to secure the event." Journalists are seen as citizens like everyone else. In a situation in which the police must secure potentially confrontational -GIDA marches and protests against immigration/refugees with hundreds of police officers, with reduced staff at several potentially violent occasions within one week, the protection of the fundamental right of freedom of the press is weighed against protection of the fundamental right of freedom of expression.

A joint resolution of the DJV-state associations in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, the MDR (First German Television), and the Saxon Newspaper Publishers Association, in which they called the respective provincial governments to a more decisive prosecution of attacks against media representatives died away without any political reaction.

A thorough assessment of journalists’ security situation is regarded as disproportionate by Saxony Interior Minister Markus Ulbig, he stated in answer to a request from the Left party in parliament in late November. It would take too many police resources to figure out as professions are not categorized in the files. So the cases would need to be researched manually. A request of the Left Party fraction in the Bundestag, recently answered by the federal government also brought no significant findings for the same reason: the professions of crime victims are not statistically recorded by state criminal police and security agencies.

Methodology: Concepts and risks of biases
Despite of lacking official sources journalists' organizations such as the ECPMF, the DJV or bloggers like the Dresdner journalist Andreas Szabo are now starting to file the assaults. This kind of research is faced with methodological issues: At what point is an attack on journalists an attack? When is coverage, when is press freedom limited? If Pegida participants hold one of their numerous flags in front of the camera lens, if they disturb live broadcasts, if they threat journalists with violence? Therefore the overview of all reported attacks on journalists can only create a general picture of the situation.

The demarcation of the various scenarios, such as at what point a physical assault begins is too difficult. Whether, for example, the jostling and harassment of ZDF reporter Britta Hilpert and her camera crew in Cottbus is already an assault, lies in the eye of the beholder. Attacks at Pegida demonstrations such as on Jafar Abdulkarim are not fully documented. In many cases there are neither witnesses nor evidence such as photographs or video recordings. We try to create transparency by noting on each entry whether it was confirmed by evidence or police investigations.

Another methodological peculiarity of this research could distort the picture and should at least be mentioned: shortly before the editorial deadline Dresden journalist Andreas Szabo published a list of violations that he had filed only for the state of Saxony. The information gathered by him was integrated in the results of our research. So even more cases were recorded in the Free State, while such lists are not compiled in other German states, as far as we know, and incidents there can fall into oblivion more quickly.

Reporting point: Journalists ask to report attacks
Additionally though Saxony was at the centre of attention, every attack was thus assigned special attention by media while - possibly - assaults in other regions were not recorded or reported to a comparable degree. This could reinforce a different aspect of the "Lying press" debate: Since the media often send their reporters to Saxony to report from there the numerous (and often predictable) heavy protests against immigration, rights protesters face their ‘enemy’, the journalists, again. The frequency of demonstrations has increased, and this is also caused by the unexpectedly large number of immigrants coming to Germany and creating fears in some parts of the population.

To facilitate a comprehensive picture of the development the ECPMF has established a Reporting Point. Journalists, media workers, members of journalists' associations and, generally, observers of attacks against media workers are asked report assaults by mail, by telephone or by post - to cover the whole picture in the most accurate way, and, where appropriate, to complete or correct entries on the basis of new research.

The attacks on journalists have increased without any doubt in number and vehemence in Germany. But not every case is definitely an attack: “Observed from an outsider-position it may appear as if journalists have been attacked." Michael Hiller reported that when he researched cases afterwards, some of the reported confrontations were seen as less dramatic by the colleagues involved. In quite a few cases he watched a distortion effect, because after a few months hardly anything new was happening at right-wing populist gatherings: "I have heard from colleagues that it was boring there. If then, for example, an attack on a camera team happens this leads to the fact that you lap it up."

Biased reporting as reason to attack
This distortion happened in only a few individual cases, but it is grist to the mill of those who shout “lying press". German journalists should "not to be surprised" about the dwindling trust and the term "lying press," says the former East German civil rights activist and journalist Vera Lengsfeld. Technically good journalistic work is to be found less and less. Instead of extensive research, many journalists would base their work on the same news agency reports. This is verifiable for her by simple Google searches in which she inputs sentence blocks which repeat the same words from agency reports dozens of times in the various media.

Lengsfeld, a former Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party (CDU) is especially disturbed by what she perceives as politically one-sided journalism in the media. In particular she puts in question the uncritical coverage of the refugee policy of Angela Merkel. The “public service broadcasters behaved like Aktuelle Kamera”, a socialistic propaganda broadcast of German Democratic Republic, she adds. In her opinion, the uniformity and tendency of the media to uncritical coverage began with Merkel's chancellorship. And, says Lengsfeld, this development was strengthened through invitations and briefings for editors in chief at the Chancellor’s Office, of which Vera Lengsfeld claims to have knowledge bu cannot be substantiated. Lengsfeld   now prefers to publish in small papers like Preußische Allgemeine or on the Internet portal "Aches des Guten” (“Axis of Good"). But she is the moderate voice of a growing number of Germans, whose dwindling trust in the media is weak or already lost, ranging through all social milieus. According to a survey conducted in October 2015 by the Infratest dimap-institute 20 percent of those surveyed agreed with the statement that there is a "lying press" in Germany. But, at the same time, 72 percent did not share this view.

“That journalists are getting attacked in their private sphere is a new dimension.”

Helmut Schümann, columnist and victim of violence against journalists

Separate media for separate worldviews
Mistrust in journalism has been fostered by Udo Ulfkotte and his work "Bought journalists" (Gekaufte Journalisten). The bestseller has, despite many proven mistakes, contributed nationwide to the image that media is controlled by politics and business. Ulfkotte is now one of the leading figures in a series of right populist media, which serves to populistic readers. This coverage operates with perspectives and topics, which are preselected for their readers. They enjoy lots of attention and offer a wide range, from moderate Internet forums like Politically Incorrect to right wing portals or social networks. DNN-editor in chief Dirk Birgel believes their readers can hardly be reached by conventional media any more: "They get their attitudes and opinions confirmed in a way that the press has never been able to, and never will be able to offer. This is a self-reinforcing mechanism at work here."

In the first years after German re-unification the big media houses, all based in the West, covered the new (East) German states in a manner of foreign correspondents, which created a distancing from big media, according to Leipzig Media scientist Hans Jörg Stiehler. His research was looking for reasons for the smaller newspaper circulation figures in the Eastern part.  

Journalism under attack – and under protection
These factors cement the foundation for a marginal parallel society, which perceives immigrants, politicians and journalists as enemies. This enemy, says CEO Dirk DNN Birgel, was approved by the leaders of -GIDA movements in full consciousness. Not only with the regular shouts of “lying press” or running the show with a “Lying press” T-shirt Lutz Bachmann and Co have fuelled the mood that led again and again into violence and threats against reporters. According to a report of the Freie Presse, one of Pegida’s co-organizers, Siegfried Däbritz, had called on followers in a closed Facebook group to keep an eye on the journalist Olaf Sundermeyer of RBB (First German Television) during his research on the site. An interview request for this research to Pegida was left unanswered. Meanwhile, according to the latest edition of the Saxon media magazine Funkturm, Siegfried Däbritz and his mates have asked their supporters to call for a little more restraint towards the media representatives.

More restraint is what Andreas Postel, director of the ZDF  Thuringia regional studio in Erfurt, would expect from the AfD politician Björn Höcke. At one of the meetings in the state capital of Thuringia, he quoted individual journalists by name and targeted what he found to be inappropriate coverage of the AfD in front of thousands supporters. "This can easily be understood wrongly and is a new departure," says Andreas Postel. He decided to protect his team with security personnel in civilian clothes, the last times that they covered AfD demonstrations, and will observe if this is necessary in future. The security guards help to de-escalate and are mainly used to defend camera crews and sound assistants, says Postel, who has not suffered any direct threats or violence yet. The veteran reporter assesses the situation as comparable to the mid-nineties, when neo-Nazi raids happened frequently and were a more common topic for journalists in East Germany.

Continuous attacks might affect media freedom
Is freedom of the press now threatened by the growing number of attacks against journalists? ZDF-Studio Director Postel does not think so, neither does DNN-editor in chief Dirk Birgel and the Tagesspiegel columnist Helmut Schümann, who became victim of an attack in Berlin, as he was shopping off duty. He "will not be intimidated" and can´t imagine that colleagues would be intimidated either. Michael Hiller, however, perceives that freedom of the press is threatened as journalists and media representatives cannot help themselves in this situation. He believes political will and security services are needed. Also Leipzig Radio Reporter Merten Waage sees the fundamental rights under threat: "Freedom of the press begins to me at the point, when you are able and allowed to report, what you see."

That violence, threats and insults against the media have reached a new level, is considered uncontroversial among the journalists who are affected, police and journalists' associations. Not only has the number of reported attacks against members of the press risen significantly. A serious new feature is that the press is loudly slandered, with their work defamed as a lie and doubted by prominent politicians in public. As a result, it is not only journalists who report critically on the right-wing scene that have to reckon with violence and threats since this year. This is the most important finding: Now, it can happen to anyone who is accused of belonging to the “lying press “because of his or her coverage - so every journalist in Germany.


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