Main link: Druck auf die Deutsche Welle, October 1, 2014
1. News article: “Pressure on Deutsche Welle”
Deutsche Welle (DW) director Peter Limbourg advocates a role for the foreign broadcaster as an English-language counterweight to Russian propaganda outlet Russia Today, according to an article published by Kölnische Rundschau, a paper from Cologne, on October 1. “It’s not about responding to massive Russian propaganda with ‘counter-propaganda’, but about conveying our free democratic concept by means of good journalism, in accordance with Western standards, the paper quotes Limbourg.
The two parties that have formed Germany’s federal government in a “grand coaliton” since December 2013 differ about the idea. While Roderich Kieswetter, a member of parliament from chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party (CDU), likes the idea that someone “counters with medial elucidation”, the Social Democrats’ (SPD) parliamentary budget commission member Johannes Kahrs is skeptical: “I don’t think much of propaganda”. He added that “to state our values should be as much a matter of course as paying the DW employees in accordance with tariffs”.
Neither CDU nor SPD have committed themselves to increasing DW funds so as to enable the station to counter Russia Today.
Either way, Kölnische Rundschau writes, Limbourg is “under heavy pressure”, “on several fronts”. German news magazine Der Spiegel had reviewed DW’s China coverage critically – ever since freelance journalist Su Yutong had been fired, a constant stream of accusations that Limbourg had “kowtowed” to Beijing kept flowing, and Limbourg’s cooperation plans with Chinese state television CCTV had been “another step on a course that was being criticized as precarious”. Christian Mihr, head of the German section of Reporters without Borders (RSF), had told conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that his organization “sharply condemned” the cooperation, and the Green-leaning paper taz pointed out that CCTV had broadcast several “public confessions” of journalists and bloggers. Markus Löning, the federal government’s human-rights commissioner, criticized Limbourg’s plans as “dangerously naive”.
Kölnische Rundschau also points out that some 200 employees have lost some or all of their work at DW. Freelancers are said to be particularly affected by saving measures.
Are Limbourg’s plans doomed already? Not necessarily. While recent decisions are controversial, Limbourg might still see them through – or back down in certain, but not all fields, depending on how support and opposition develop. When it comes to “cooperation” with party mouthpieces from China, there’s probably a lot of silent support in Germany that isn’t always reflected in the media. At least some circles in German business, the Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA), criticized German media this summer for being “inaccurate” in their China coverage, according to a report by Deutsche Presseagentur (dpa),:
It was “the common task of governments and companies on both sides to promote a good reputation of Chinese companies in Germany”, the recommendations, on hand at dpa newsagency in Beijing on Tuesday [July 8], say. This was about a “fair and accurate” presentation. Background [of these recommendations?] is Chinese criticism of German media which “irresponsibly and inaccurately report about Chinese human rights and political issues”, a position paper still in progress says.
APA chairman Hubert Lienhard, talking to journalists, resolutely denied the existence of this paragraph in the raft. However, only a week ago, a draft of the paper containing this criticism circulated in the German embassy in Beijing. Accusations like these were, however, not adopted in the recommendations to the two heads of government, recommendations the APA commission does not want to publish. […]
It is this kind of climate where business interests gain weight, and where principles go down. That said, at least publicly, the German federal government wasn’t sympathetic towards the APA recomendations.
While former German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, chairman of the board at Nord Stream AG, a consortium for construction and operation of the Nord Stream submarine pipeline between Vyborg in Russia and Greifswald in Germany, tirelessly advocates cooperation with Russia, Moscow doesn’t appear to have nearly as much sway over German published opinion or business as Beijing.
This doesn’t seem to suggest that countering Russian propaganda should be a priority. But it’s an easier target than Chinese propaganda.
And many Western “opinion formers” have apparently felt haunted by Russian propaganda, or by what they consider to be the effects of it, right at home.
Confucius Institutes are apparently much less offensive.