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Merkel supports reporters in PEGIDA rally debate

August 23, 2018

A scandal over police who blocked a TV crew at a far-right PEGIDA rally in Dresden continues to widen in Germany. The chancellor has also waded into the debate, coming to the defense of the reporters.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel
Image: Reuters/M. Tantussi

German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the importance of press freedom in Germany and defended the actions of journalists on Thursday amid an ongoing debate over the actions of police at a far-right rally in the eastern city of Dresden.

When asked about the scandal during her trip to Georgia, Merkel said that the right to free assembly was important but also underscored her "strong commitment to press freedom."

The chancellor said that people who chose to attend political demonstrations in Germany "must accept that they will be filmed and observed by the media."

Far-right protester was police employee

The scandal was sparked by a protest by the far-right, anti-immigrant PEGIDA group who were demonstrating against Merkel's visit to Dresden last week.

A TV crew with public broadcaster ZDF was recording the demonstrators when one PEGIDA supporter confronted the reporters. He argued that the camera crew had illegally focused on his face without asking his permission and complained to police. 

The ZDF reporters were then held and questioned by police for 45 minutes during the demonstrations but were not found to have broken the law.

It emerged on Wednesday that the PEGIDA protester in question was also a state police employee, prompting further concerns about members of far-right groups working in law enforcement.

The incident prompted criticism both from ZDF and other German media outlets, and led several politicians to call for an investigation.

rs/msh  (AFP, dpa)