Voice of Germany: Probe still in Progress?

Zhang Danhong, former deputy manager of the Voice of Germany‘s Chinese department (but still working for the Chinese department, I thought), wrote an article the day before yesterday, about a press conference with Frank Appel, chief executive of the Deutsche Post. That’s no China-related topic, and I’m wondering if she has been transferred to a different department within the Voice (Deutsche Welle), or if this article is just by the way. In December, she interviewed Hu Xingdou (胡星斗), professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology.

Matthias von Hein, formerly head of the station’s Chinese department, reportedly was to change his job and switch to the central editorial department “this year”. So far, the station still refers to him as head of Deutsche Welle’s China Service.

It’s guessing work for me – can’t find a great deal of information on the internet in general, or on the station’s website in particular. As for the investigation work on the Chinese department’s past records, I see no information either. Possibly, all parties have come to the conclusion that the station wasn’t Beijing’s propaganda mouthpiece after all – but if so, I can only find a statement by parliament’s Social Democrats who actually made a – more or less final – statement in the Voice of Germany’s favor.

My impression (but that’s a vague one) is that neither the critics of the Voice of Germany, nor its defenders, neither the German, nor the Chinese media are still too interested in the story. That said, China Radio International (CRI) still conveys the image of an impeccable Chinese journalist who was attacked by German sectarians, although the Chinese foreign broadcaster does so rather by the way. In an article on the latest novel by Günter Grass earlier this month, CRI also refers to his support for Zhang Danhong.

For the Voice of Germany itself, this was or is an important process. One can think of it as a quality test.

Open communication is the best foundation for trust – and an international radio station needs the trust of its audience. Mrs Zhang’s personal rights – legal matters of privacy for example – may sometimes be more important than openness. But whereever possible, the Voice of Germany should let us know the decisions it takes, and for which purposes it takes them. The Chinese official media won’t stop building legends, and the Voice of Germany’s listeners in China understandably will have questions.

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Related: Zhang Danhong remains in the News, Mar 14

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