Over the course of the past two years, the German media has been taking harsh criticism for manipulating, censoring, and omitting news coverage.
Media criticism is a phenomenon that isn’t limited to Germany but has essentially become common place in the west as people are increasingly becoming aware that what is being peddled to them as “news” is often either entirely false or twisted in some fashion in order to advance a political agenda.
In a recent interview with Voice of Europe, a German journalist, Anabel Schunke, detailed how this perception has come about, and describes several examples of German media’s news manipulation.
How trustworthy is the German media? Do they represent the truth in your opinion?
In Germany, the term “lying press” has been circulating since about 2015. I consider this description inaccurate because it implies that the media deliberately spreads fake news. But we do have a completely different problem here in Germany.
Not so long ago, a representative survey revealed that more than 70% of German journalists regard themselves as more politically left. Most are voters of the Greens, a party with members that left the socialist SPD and which are considered as more ideologically left.
As a result, we neither have a journalism that deliberately spreads lies or is controlled by “evil forces,” but a journalism that simply works according to its own political agenda of its journalists, who act more as political activists than as neutral reporters. The decisive factor is not whether it is reported, but also how.
An example: It took an unbelievable four days until the major German media reported on the massive sexual offenses in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015/16. At first, only regional media had taken up the topic on the side lines, after it already had been reported on 01.01 in Facebook groups of eyewitnesses. Only when it couldn’t be avoided the Cologne story was reported nationwide.
Do you know why that took so long? Because media professionals were more concerned about the possible conviction of migrants by the public than about honestly reporting in the spirit of the victims. They knew that it could overturn the mood of the euphoric, unrestricted welcome culture of migrants into the country.
Of course, there are also in the public-law entanglements, dependencies with politics, but primarily it was the own world view of the journalists, that made the coverage so different. And of course, the coverage did not come out without comments on how the population would react to that.
Jan Fleischhauer, a well-known German columnist once called this form of reporting “educational journalism”. That hits the bull’s eye. It is a kind of “supervised reporting”, which we experience here in Germany. The citizen will be told immediately to report how he has to think about it.
Like in the small Rhineland-Palatinate town of Kandel, where a 15-year-old girl was murdered by an Afghan who, like many others, was most likely younger than he is reported, then the media and politics are particularly interested in the case not to be “exploited by the right”.
These priorities are derived from one’s own left-wing worldview, which cannot be what should not be. This determines the way HOW is reported and, of course, this affects a large part of the population. A message that is hyped by the media as a scandal is perceived differently than a message that is relativized or hardly mentioned. People are mostly upset about what the media is reporting as something exciting.
That’s why #metoo was a bigger topic than the basic misogyny in Islam ever was in this country. That’s the big failure of the German media. But something is slowly changing. People increasingly see through this type of reporting. As a result, a number of new media emerged, reporting critically and steadily growing, while the established media lose more and more influence.
This is a chance and a risk at the same time, because of course a lot of garbage is being told on the internet. But it puts pressure on the established media and that’s good. The private broadcasters and some newspapers report much more critically than two years ago. Only the public-legal ones are incorrigible, but they are also financed by a compulsory levy and are thus not exposed to the free market
While the official news outlets intend to be perceived as neutral, the material they publish, and don’t publish, is colored very strongly by their unabashed political tint.
Ever ready to report on women’s rights issues, they ignore how women are treated by the growing migrant population, which is another of their precious political babies that must be nurtured at any and all costs.