Masked attackers beat up camera crew

By Jane Whyatt

Investigative reporters filming a car showroom at Wuppertal in western Germany have been attacked and beaten up by two masked men.

Logo of the Akte TV show

The fifty year old freelance camera operator had to be treated in hospital for a broken wrist after the attack, which happened in broad daylight at lunchtime on 9. October. Reporting for the Sat1 private TV channel, the crew had approached the office of the car dealer on a major road to the north of the city.

The reporter and sound operator were not injured, but the attackers snatched the video camera, which was later dumped nearby.

It’s a frightening new development, according to the crew’s editor-in-chief  Matthias Pfeffer at the Berlin based TV production house META Productions. Pfeffer told ECPMF: 

Yes, it’s shocking. We’ve experienced camera crews being approached very aggressively when they are filming in public places. We have a lot of experience in our editorial team with firms that operate on the edge of legality. But nothing like this has happened, and it was frightening.

The editor explained that the three-person crew was filming an investigation of used car dealers that put people under pressure to sell their cars at less than their true value. They approached the glass-fronted office with the camera in full view, in order to ask for an interview with the boss as they wanted him to answer allegations based on their research. The masked attackers jumped on them without warning.

This investigation forms part of a series called Akte (“Files“) that is crowd-sourced from viewers who send in details of companies that have tried to rip them off. And Pfeffer insists the broadcast will go ahead as scheduled, using footage salvaged from the camera that was damaged, stolen and then abandoned.

"Attacked because of their journalistic investigation"

Wuppertal police spokesperson Hanna Mackmann told ECPMF: "At first we thought this was just the theft of a camera, but when we found the camera nearby - that is obviously not the reason for the crime. So now we are working on the premise that they were attacked because of their journalistic investigation, and that the two masked men are connected to the car dealership."

Mackmann said that she had been working for the police in Wuppertal for three years and never heard of any journalists being attacked in the area until now. Neither had her colleagues, some of whom who have served for many years in the local force.

Police have issued a description of the two men wanted in connection with the atack.They are thought to be aged around 28 or 29.

This is the latest in a recent wave of attacks against camera crews and journalists in Germany. The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom is verifying and documenting them in a series of reports in its Germany fact-finding mission.