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German journalists demand more protection from far right

August 28, 2019

The German government is not offering enough protection to journalists who appear on far-right "death lists," according to an open letter signed by media organizations. Several such lists have been discovered recently.


Six German journalist and activist organizations have sent an open letter to Interior Minister Horst Seehofer asking for more protection from far-right terrorists in the country.

Recent police raids on far-right networks have uncovered several lists of journalists and left-wing politicians, apparently as potential targets.

Read more: German authorities dismiss threat of far-right 'enemy lists'

"In the context of the latest reports about 'death lists' compiled by far-right activists: can you guarantee that each individual whose name appears on such a list or a similar one will be informed of it when they request it, and receive recommendations for their safety?" the groups wanted to know of the ministry. "Will individuals be proactively informed if there is a concrete threat on their life?"

"A free press is a basic pillar of our democracy," the letter continued. "Given the proven fact that journalists have become special objects of hatred for many far-right extremists, it is essential that the safety of media representatives is guaranteed so that they can carry out their work without hindrance."

Read more: Walter Lübcke murder raises specter of neo-Nazi terrorism

The letter was signed by both major German journalists' unions, the non-profit association New German Media Professionals, as well as the research networks and outlets Krautreporter and Netzwerk Recherche, and the art activists' group Peng!

The organizations said the current level of protection was insufficient. According to the letter, the groups said they had "become aware of cases" where individuals who had been threatened were told by police to "withdraw from public life." This, they said, was "simply impossible" for media professionals.

In a statement issued in mid-August, following reports that several such lists had been found among far-right groups, including some that were available online and contained private contact information, the Interior Ministry downplayed their significance. "So far, there have essentially been no indications that they pose a tangible threat for those affected," the ministry said. "The listed persons, institutions and organizations are currently not in danger, according to an assessment by the federal criminal police agency."

Many activists and journalists whose names had appeared on the lists were dismayed at the response. "We have been let down and left to our own devices by the authorities," Ruben Neugebauer, of the migrant rescue organization Sea Watch, told DW at the time. "The Interior Ministry did not recognize and continues to deny what a danger these lists pose. That's a huge scandal."Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.

Benjamin Knight Kommentarbild PROVISORISCH
Ben Knight Ben Knight is a journalist in Berlin who mainly writes about German politics.@BenWernerKnight
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