by Thorsten Koch
After violent attacks on journalists by demonstrators, including by those operating against the Corona measures, the Federal Government has announced to offer media representatives better protection. The risk should be “taken into account” better by the police forces, as a spokesman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior said. Previously, the NGO Reporter Sans Frontières (RSF) downgraded Germany’s ranking in terms of freedom of the press to “satisfactory.” It had long been found to be “good.”
In 2020 alone, RSF registered at least 65 violent attacks against journalists in Germany. “Journalists were beaten, kicked and pushed to the ground, they were spat at and harassed, insulted, threatened and prevented from working,” said RSF. According to the Federal Ministry of the Interior, the negative balance should be taken seriously. The conceptualization of the operations, according to which security zones are set up for journalists, should be improved, as of now.
Vice-government spokeswoman Ulrike Demmer commented: “Every attack on journalists is one too many.” The basic right “to free journalistic reporting must be guaranteed.” “Media representatives are never a mere fair game,” said an FDP spokesman for his part.
According to the German Association of Journalists (DJV), there were repeated acts of violence against reporters again, at the beginning of the year, by so-called lateral thinkers, but also by left-wing persons: “If the important Basic Right of freedom of the press and freedom of expression is increasingly restricted, we have a massive problem in Germany”, the organization said and added: “The police sometimes did not react well to protect journalists.” Security measures must be increased and improved. The investigative authorities had to punish all attacks on the freedom of the press by fanatical fringe groups. Journalists wrote reports and did not adopt conspiracy ideologues, nor did they write by the mouth of Reich citizens and Corona deniers.
The Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels complained that hatred, threats and agitation were used to intimidate reporters. That is why the “Week of Freedom of Expression” was launched from May 3rd to 10th. In the meantime, journalists ‘associations and unions have drawn up a code to better protect reporters from violence. An alliance of journalists’ associations asked publishers to adopt the code. Security personnel are to accompany journalists if these so wish, for example.
On the occasion of this Monday’s International Press Freedom Day, Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas emphasized that press is of great importance, as is the independence of the media. EU Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell said on behalf of the 27 EU states that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies. The human rights organization Amnesty International in Germany said that new technological possibilities such as sophisticated surveillance systems, espionage software and Internet shutdowns were increasingly restricting the scope of civil society, including journalists.
“Due to the high number, it is becoming increasingly time-consuming to track and verify all attacks on journalists,” explained RSF. The organization has set up the e-mail address uebergriffe(at)reporter-ohne-grenzen(dot)de, to which journalists can report attacks.