Reporters Detained by Police after Complaint by Anti-Merkel Protester
Footage shot by the camera team and shared widely across several media outlets shows a procession of demonstrators including one man wearing a hat bearing the colours of the German flag shouting the slogan “Lügenpresse!” while looking and pointing at the camera team, which included broadcast journalists Ulrich Stoll and Arndt Ginzel. The term means “lying press” and is a widely used pejorative in the far right wing political scene to describe the mainstream media.
In the video, the demonstrator can then be seen turning back towards the team and demanding that they stop filming, claiming they are “committing a crime” by filming him without his permission, and saying “I’ll get you arrested”. The footage also shows the demonstrator near a police unit insisting the journalists accompany him to the police. Another demonstrator also demanded the filming stop and reached for the camera while another person can be seen with the police officers gesturing in the direction of the altercation.
The video resumes during the police interaction. When the journalists asked why they were being detained, an officer replied that they are obliged to investigate when there is suspicion a crime has been committed. When asked what crime, the officer was silent and made a nervous (non-threatening) gesture with his hands. When asked again later during the interaction, the officer again paused before saying that he had already explained that, which the journalists disputed on camera. In an interview with SZ, Ginzel re-iterated that “no one gave us a reason for the [detention].” The interaction lasted almost 45 minutes, according to Stoll and Grinzel.
The Saxony state police confirmed on Twitter that “media representatives at the scene were accused of a crime by reason of which the police were obliged to carry out an identity check. On conclusion of this measure the journalists could resume their work”. Police spokesperson Marko Laske, who was at the scene, added in a statement to HuffPo that the journalists’ behaviour contributed to the length of their detention. The above claims were re-iterated by the Saxony Interior Ministry, which denied there was a violation of press freedom, in a response to a question by member of the Saxony Parliament Albrecht Pallas and published on in a Facebook discussion, reported regional media blog Flurfunk.
The Prime Minister of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer of the centre-right CDU, wrote on Twitter that “The only people acting seriously in this video are police officers” which unleashed hundreds of comments accusing Kretschmer of discrediting the journalists and making an impartial investigation impossible.
“The police are not only obstructing our work, they are emboldening PEGIDA followers in their aggressive behaviour towards journalists”, Ginzel told SZ. Both Ginzel and Stoll criticised Saxony police on Twitter for acting as “the executive of PEGIDA”, a sentiment echoed by Enrico Stange, interior spokesperson for the faction Die Linke in the Saxony parliament, who said they were acting as PEGIDA henchmen, and his Green Party counterpart Valentin Lippmann who stated that the police should not allow themselves to be instrumentalised by the enemies of a free press, SZ reported.
Ine Dippamm, chair of the German Journalists’ Federation in Saxony, described the affair to national daily tabloid Bild as “shameless”, which “cannot continue”. Michael Hiller, general secretary of the federation, also condemned the officers and demanded an explanation and apology, reported SZ.
- Statement from the European Federation of Journalists: "Journalists detained in Dresden after complaint by far-right protester"
- Statement from the German Journalists' Union dju in ver.di: "dju in ver.di kritisiert Vorgehen der sächsischen Polizei gegen ZDF-Reporter"
- Statement from the German Journalists' Federation: "Dresden: Aufklärung über Polizeieinsatz gefordert"
- Report published on Mapping Media Freedom platform : "Germany: ZDF reporters harassed by right wing demonstrators, detained by police"
- Report by Süddeutsche Zeitung : "Hat Sachsens Polizei einen Reporter behindert?"
- Article by Bild : "Behindert Polizei hier die Arbeit von Journalisten?"
- Article posted on Flurfunk blog : "Am Rande einer Demonstration: Polizei nimmt Personalien von Journalisten auf"
- Article published on huffingtonpost.de : "Anti-Merkel-Demo: Polizei setzte ZDF-Journalisten wegen "Beleidigung" fest"
- PEN International's Resolution on Attacks Against Journalists And The Rise Of Xenophobia In Germany
- Video of the incident published by Ulrich Stoll on Tweeter