11 Jun 2019 Lvl. 2
Alert created on: 19 Aug 2018 n° 84/2018 Germany

Reporters Detained by Police after Complaint by Anti-Merkel Protester

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner Index EFJ/IFJ PEN
Partner Index EFJ/IFJ PEN
A TV crew working for public broadcaster ZDF´s investigative political magazine programme Frontal21 were detained by police after a complaint by a participant at an anti-Merkel demonstration in Dresden, where she was visiting, Süddeutsche Zeitung (SZ) reported.

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.
11 Jun 2019: On 11 June 2019, given the measures taken by the Criminal Office of Saxony and the apologies by the Police of Saxony, which the ZDF accepted, the partner organisations to the Platform declared this case to be “resolved”, concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.
10 Sep 2018
On 24 August 2018, at a clarification meeting, the Dresden police admitted that the journalists had been detained for too long and apologised to the ZDF.
04 Sep 2018
On 23 August 2018, the complainant was identified as Maik G. A contract agent with the Criminal Office of Saxony (LKA) assigned to the investigation of complex crime, he had participated in the protest in a private capacity, during his annual leave. Mr. G. was seconded for a limited period from 3 September 2018 to another activity outside the Saxony police force.
20 Aug 2018
OSCE Representative for Media Freedom calls for an investigation into the temporary detention by police of ZDF team in Dresden
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