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Germany

Far-right NPD ups ante with media offensive in eastern German state

Five new newspapers have gone into print in the eastern state of Thuringia with the aim of furthering the far-right. The much-maligned National Democratic Party, widely seen as a neo-Nazi group, is behind the move.

Right-wing extremists attend a NPD rally in Frankfurt am Main

NPD supporters attempt to stage rallies in cities around Germany

Far-right nationalists in the German state of Thuringia are seeking to reach a wider audience by founding five new newspapers in the region. The worrying move by the National Democratic Party (NPD) is aimed at capturing more voters.

The publications purport to address regional issues, running headlines such as "Is Erfurt broke?", "Venturing more democracy," and "Schools are the future." But behind this veneer of seemingly harmless headlines lies the NPD's true agenda.

"The NPD's ideology is communicated above all else in these articles," said Stefan Heerdegen of the Mobile Council in Thuringia for Democracy - Against Right-wing Extremism, based in the state's capital, Erfurt.

"There is always a hostility towards democracy being piggybacked [in these stories]," said Heerdegen.

The NPD is the official political arm of the right-wing neo-Nazi movement in Germany. It is often involved in far-right extremist marches and is widely opposed throughout the country. There have been numerous attempts to have it banned from German politics.

Its existence is permitted through somewhat of a legal loophole. The party is allowed to operate because its founding documents pledge allegiance to the German constitution, unlike other far-right and far-left parties that have been banned.

Racist messages

Skinheads at an NPD rally

Cities regularly try to have NPD rallies banned

Stefan Kausch, a political scientist who works with the Forum for Critical Research of Right-wing Extremism, said "the topics of the articles are connected with the party's objectives - racist ideologies are repeatedly conveyed."

An example of this is given in an NPD article on municipal finances:

"Instead of prescribing to the protection of identity, sovereignty and solidarity of Germans," the article reads, "The anti-German political cartel instigates a well-planned policy [serving the] interests of foreigners, foreign countries and high finance."

Heerdegen says the far-right party is trying to use the new publications to position itself as the lone voice of political opposition in Germany.

"And so these are NPD newspapers, not true newspapers in the sense of journalistic seriousness," he said.

New take, old idea

Publishing regional newspapers is not new for the far-right. Since 2001, publications such as the Inselboten, a regional paper in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, have been in print. The state's largest city, Rostock, is home to the right-wing Rostocker Boten, while a far-right newspaper can also be found in the city of Trier, in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate.

Patrick Wieschke

Wieschke says the NPD papers try to focus on local issues

Pre-election periods usually see an increase in the number of these far-right publications. "We have also noticed this [in the eastern city of] Leipzig," said Kausch. "However, these publications don't last."

Two exceptions to the short-lived nature of many right-wing newspapers are the Wartburgkreisbote and Der Rennsteigbote in Thuringia. In its 14th edition the former printed 22,000 copies, according to the NPD District Council Chairman and the paper's publisher, Patrick Wieschke.

"The new regional papers are financed in mixed ways," said Wieschke. The lion's share comes from the NPD's associations at the state level, but local groups must also pay up, he says.

Parliamentary push

The NPD in Thuringia wants to use its five new publications to strengthen its grass-roots movement and create the conditions for entry to state parliament in 2014, says Wieschke. In 2009, the party only marginally failed to garner the 5 percent of votes needed for representation.

The right-wing party says it wants to appeal to common voters by focusing on local issues in the hope this will demonstrate some kind of capacity to serve communities.

The front and back sheets of the four-page publications attempt to deal with local issues and differ from paper to paper. The inner two pages, however, are identical in each of the five publications.

Most Germans still view the NPD as embodying the neo-Nazi movement, and the new publications are unlikely to sway voters from these firmly held positions.

Author: Jan Schilling/dfm
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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