The allegations DW is currently being confronted with are unfounded. All incidents described in an article in The Guardian date more than 18 months back, and in some cases, even further.
This is not clearly indicated in the article. Furthermore, the article fails to mention the immediate action that DW took in all cases that came to light during this time. The head of DW’s Arabic department was not approached for comment by The Guardian, contrary to the assertion made in the article.
Starting in early 2018, DW Director General Peter Limbourg and Administrative Director Barbara Massing initiated a "zero tolerance" campaign against any form of abuse of power, bullying or sexual misconduct. Over several months, more than 40 discussions with employees in all editorial offices and departments of DW were held to make the management’s position against any form of abuse of power unequivocally clear.
During and following these conversations, the management was made aware of a small number of cases which were immediately and thoroughly investigated. This resulted in terminations of employment and employment law measures against the persons accused.
DW has a functioning conflict management system. Numerous options were established so that employees, complete anonymity guaranteed, have a choice of trustworthy people to turn to if they wish to point out a possible case of abuse. These are internal contact persons as well as external lawyers who can be contacted in case of sexual harassment.
The prevention of abuse of power has been specifically included as an important part of DW’s management training. Abuse of power has never been and will not be tolerated at DW. Whenever necessary, external trainers have conducted workshops to restore good cooperation and to anchor mutual respect.
In our view, the anonymous sources that have been quoted in various media such as DIE ZEIT, the Ver.di publication MMM and The Guardian, have raised personal allegations, for reasons unknown to us, because they wish to harm DW.
DW is surprised that The Guardian gave authorship of this article to an editor who left DW on poor terms after a short stint as a freelancer.
In an open letter to The Guardian, DW staffers have complained about the paper's portrayal of DW:
The incidents described in your article ("Deutsche Welle staff speak out about alleged racism and bullying," 14.01.2020) are unacceptable, and I stand in solidarity with our colleagues who have suffered harassment of any kind. It is right that such allegations be investigated, the perpetrators punished and management failures addressed.
However, the story contains errors. It wrongly placed incidents in the "TV newsroom" when they occurred in another department. It states that management is all male, when there are several women in the management team. The article also did not contain any alternative perspectives from other staff members. I write to correct this imbalance, and hope you will publish my views.
The events portrayed in the article are linked to specific individuals. To describe the incidents in the article as "systematic" for all of Deutsche Welle is incorrect and unfair to the hundreds of staff who were not involved.
DW's Berlin TV newsroom is a professional, polite, diverse and multi-lingual workplace with a positive work environment. When disagreements occur, they are usually about facts, grammar and balance, as we strive to improve our journalism. To describe it as a "prison" or a “swamp” is incompatible with my experience.
Note: this letter was drafted in collaboration with many staff members.