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Culture

When a word takes on the mainstream media

A jury of linguists, journalists and authors have selected 'liar press' as the 'Unwort des Jahres,' or 'German buzzword of the year.' The award draws attention to an unwelcome term widely used in public discourse.

The practice, established in 1991, aims to encourage the public to reflect upon awkward or ungainly expressions that have been widely used within the previous months. The word selected for 2014 is "Lügenpresse," which translates as "liar press."

The expression is currently popular among supporters of the German anti-Islamization movement "Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West," or PEGIDA - a name that was also a runner-up among the 733 different propositions submitted to the jury, along with "Putin-Versteher" (Putin sympathizers) and "Social Freezing" (egg-freezing for female employees).

PEGIDA has been using the term in its weekly rallies that started in October 2014, asserting that the mainstream media were liars and biased in their reporting about PEGIDA and issues that concern the movement.

But "Lügenpresse" is no newcomer to the German language.

It was already used at the beginning of the 20th century and became prevalent in the word pool of the Nazis to denigrate any media deemed unpatriotic for not representing the interests of the nation.

It was also used in East Germany and other Communist countries to belittle the Western press, as well as by West German student radicals in 1968 to denounce the "establishment" media.

Speaking for the jury who selected the word, linguist Nina Janich said such across-the-board condemnations of the media prevent substantiated criticism and put freedom of the press, and democracy, in danger.

eg/cb/sgb (dpa/epd/afp)

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