Deutsche Welle controversies: “a Tendency to influence Content from the Top”

It seems that Germany’s foreign broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) is kissing Beijing’s butt like never before – far beyond where it was in 2008, before DW suddenly started aiming at Beijing’s throat. DW director Peter Limbourg is currently travelling in China, according to a New York Times Sinosphere article, published online on Tuesday:

Mr. Limbourg was in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang, Deutsche Welle said by telephone on Monday from its headquarters in Bonn. He was to take part in a China-German Media Forum starting on Tuesday in Beijing co-sponsored by Global Times, a nationalist newspaper that is part of the Communist Party’s flagship People’s Daily group, the broadcaster confirmed.

The New York Times’ Tuesday article also republishes an open letter by Su Yutong to director Limbourg. Su had been fired by DW on August 19. DW spokesman Johannes Hoffmann had told the New York Times last month that Su Yutong had tweeted about internal (DW) issues in a way that no company in the world would tolerate. We warned her, and she continued to do it.

Su’s open letter suggests a visit by Limbourg to Gao Yu (高瑜), a former contributor to DW who is now under detention in China.

German green-liberal daily tageszeitung (taz) reports about Su Yutong‘s case, the purportedly regular transferral of Chinese department director Matthias von Hein, and about at least two commentaries critical of Israel which had not been published – “they were in the editorial department’s computer system, ready for publication. But at the very last moment, someone put on the emergency brake and stopped publication.

All events combined – censorship of the Israel-related commentaries and the mess in the Chinese department – are causing misgivings, writes taz:

The German Journalists Association [Deutscher Journalisten Verband, DJV] has been asked for advice by several employees. The DJV is seriously worried, and its speaker, Hendrik Zörner, makes no secret of it: “What worries us greatly is that there’s a tendency at Deutsche Welle to influence content from the top.”

[…]

The broadcaster’s statement concerning censorship is curt: a message from chief editor Alexander Kudascheff says that the articles hadn’t met DW’s journalistic standards, and that there had been talks with the authors. The articles are on hand at taz, and while you may disagree with the authors, there is certainly no offense against journalistic standards.

Indeed, “standards” appear to have become a mantra of Deutsche Welle leaders when in fact, they seem to be targeting unwanted content. When a “monitor”, German sinologist Jörg M. Rudolph, was appointed to supervise the Chinese department in 2009, the stated goal had also been to “improve standards”.

In March 2013, the Journalists Association had expressed its hope that Peter Limbourg, who had just been chosen as Deutsche Welle’s new director, would put journalism first (dem journalistischen Auftrag des Senders sei Vorrang einzuräumen). The Journalists Association has also followed the issue of quasi-employees at DW.

 

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