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Dresden police apologize for holding reporters

Louisa Wright
August 25, 2018

Dresden's police chief has apologized for detaining a camera team from public broadcaster ZDF. The head of the German Journalists' Union said politicians cannot stand on the sidelines on the issue of press freedom.

Placard displaying Pinocchio-type figure and reading 'propaganda' and 'lies'
Image: Imago/IPON

The chief of police in the eastern German city of Dresden has apologized for detaining a camera team from German public broadcaster ZDF while filming at a far-right PEDIGA protest.

The team, who worked on the program Frontal 21, had a meeting with the police where the police chief admitted they had been detained for far too long, ZDF reported.

Read more: Are journalists increasingly under threat in Germany?

Journalist Arndt Ginzel and the camera team were held for 45 minutes during the far-right demonstration in Dresden organized by the anti-Islam PEGIDA movement in response to a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 16.

Footage of the incident posted by Ginzel showed a protester chanting "Lügenpresse" (a historically-laden far-right chant that translates as "lying press") before falsely claiming that the crew had illegally filmed him taking part in the march.

The man then told police that he had been verbally abused by one of the crew members, which led police to question and hold the team. It was later revealed that the man was a state police employee.

Police should support media

During the meeting with police, ZDF emphasized that the police's previous description of events did not correspond to the ZDF film material.

Read more: AfD: What you need to know about Germany's far-right party

Both the police and ZDF staff acknowledged that the "Code of Conduct for Press/Radio and Police," adopted by interior ministers and the media in the 1990s, including ZDF, must be adhered to.

According to the code of conduct, it is the duty of the police to support the media in gathering information, even during demonstrations.

Merkel spoke out in support of the ZDF team on Wednesday, but said the right to demonstrate must be fully ensured.

"Anyone who goes to a demonstration must expect that they will be recorded and observed by journalists," Merkel said, adding that there has to be freedom for journalists to work. "I want to express my explicit commitment to the freedom of the press."

The head of the German Journalists' Union, Cornelia Hass, spoke out against the Dresden incident on Saturday, saying that politicians cannot stand on the sidelines of the issue. "Our country needs a plan to effectively enforce the fundamental right of freedom of the press and its protection by the state," she said.

Hass pointed to another incident in Stuttgart last Sunday, where journalists were allegedly harassed and told that press freedom was "suspended" at an information booth of the far-right Identitarian Movement. Hass noted the need for more police training, so that officers can learn the fundamental principles of cooperation between the state and the media.

"Securing our freedom of the press must be an essential element in the training of security forces," she said.