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Independent probe finds no structural antisemitism at DW

February 7, 2022

The probe assessed allegations that some DW employees posted antisemitic comments online. The experts found no evidence of structural antisemitism, but called for clearer guidelines for staff and broadcasting partners.

Deutsche Welle logo on a glass door of a building
DW is Germany’s international broadcasterImage: YURI KADOBNOV/AFP

A team of independent experts presented their findings on Monday following reports in German media about antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks made by some employees at Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany's international broadcaster.

The investigation examined remarks by DW employees made on their personal social media profiles as well as comments published in outside media.

The probe also examined DW's partner broadcasters in the Middle East and North African region (MENA region) following German press reports that found antisemitic content published by these broadcasters.

The investigation concluded that there is not a structural antisemitism issue in DW, but that measures in training and recruitment must be taken to avoid further individual cases.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg said that as a result of the investigations, five employees will no longer work for DW. 

"Today we acknowledge omissions and mistakes. We will deal with these promptly, completely and consistently," he said. "We will draw clear consequences, including those related to staffing."

What did the report find?

The independent investigation was carried out by a specialist team comprised of psychologist and antisemitism expert Ahmad Mansour and former German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger.

Following interviews with members of DW's Arabic service and their own research, the experts concluded that the issues raised in German media reports were individual cases that did not extend to the rest of the editorial department.

A screenshot from from the press conference on the independent probe in to antisemitism allegations at DW
DW executives and the team of experts presented the results of the investigation at a press conferenceImage: Deutsche Welle/dpa/picture alliance

"Structural antisemitism is not present," Mansour, who founded an initiative for democracy promotion and extremism prevention, told reporters at a press conference.

The experts determined, however, that the comments by five DW employees clearly amounted to antisemitism, Holocaust denial or Holocaust relativism, as well as statements that denied Israel's right to exist. The previous suspension of these five employees was "justified."

"Those were comments that were made on private social media accounts — but they were public," Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said.

Cases of potential concern — involving an additional eight DW employees — were also flagged by the expert team.

The experts said that while the editorial work done by DW's Arabic department was found to not be antisemitic, the individual cases uncovered could damage DW's reputation.

Mansour and Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger called for better onboarding procedures as well as training for current employees at DW on the topics of antisemitism, Israel and the conflict in the Middle East.

The report also recommended restructuring DW's Arabic service and a "new beginning" for the department to help adapt to the changes.

Ahmad Mansour and Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger
Ahmad Mansour and Sabine Leutheusser-SchnarrenbergerImage: DW

With regards to DW's partnerships with local broadcasters in the MENA region, the experts advised against further cooperation with two broadcasters, but encouraged dialogue and clear guidelines on antisemitism with the others.

DW had already halted cooperation with Jordanian broadcaster, Roya TV, after discovering the station was spreading antisemitic comments and cartoons.

What action has DW taken?

Director General Limbourg said that DW will make significant changes at the broadcaster as a result of the independent probe.

"The management and I are truly sorry. The mere suspicion of antisemitism in a German, tax-funded institution must be intolerable for Jewish people in this country and around the world," he said.

Limbourg added: "We must make our position much clearer in the future. Freedom of expression is never a justification for antisemitism, hatred of Israel and denial of the Holocaust."

Karl Jüsten, the head of DW's broadcasting council, emphasized that DW has a zero-tolerance policy towards antisemitism and thanked Mansour and Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger for their assessment.

"They have helped DW in a difficult situation and formed the basis for concrete improvements with their investigation," Jüsten said.

The head of DW's Arabic service has offered to step down from the post and DW has accepted the offer, Limbourg said. The search for a replacement is underway.

DW will also set out a clear definition of antisemitism for all employees, as well as strengthen the broadcaster's code of conduct, training procedures and rules for recruitment.

Peter Limbourg speaks at DW Global Media Forum in 2021
DW Director General Peter Limbourg Image: Philipp Böll/DW

Calls for swift implementation

The president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, called on DW to quickly and transparently carry out the changes outlined in the report.

"The broadcaster should now quickly implement the experts' recommendations," he said. "In a quarter of a year, Deutsche Welle should present an initial report that provides information on the measures taken."

Claudia Roth, the German government's commissioner for culture and media, noted that DW has specific responsibilities that it must uphold as Germany's international broadcaster.

"In its broadcasts, DW must respect and protect human dignity. That is what the DW Law says," Roth said in a statement. She said that this responsibility applies to all employees in DW.

Roth, who is a member of DW's broadcasting council, called on DW's executive management to propose a list of "appropriate measures, including structural measures" which would include both editorial and administrative departments within the broadcaster.

DW, Germany's taxpayer-funded international broadcaster, provides news in 32 languages for countries around the world.

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