Search Results for “"Zhang Danhong" "Deutsche Welle"”

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Deutsche Welle and the Dissidents: Skeletons in the Cupboard

Market Segmentation in International Media Coverage / 国际媒体报道中有国际市场细分

Coverage concerning DW’s China department follows some kind of market segmentation: there is news for Germans, there’s news fort he international community, and there’s news for Chinese people. The news sources aren’t identical either.

就关于德国之声中文部有媒体报道来说有一种市场细分:有消息是给德国人的,有消息是给国际社会的,有消息是给中国人的。发布消息的来源也不一样。

For example, the Zhang Danhong incident was covered by Chinese and by German media.

比如说,张丹红事件是中国媒体报道的,又是德国媒体报道的。

The events of 2010 and 2011 – the sackings of Wang Fengbo, Zhu Hong, Li Qi und Wang Xueding – were covered by the Chinese media, but hardly by German media. Although I followed the DW story rather closely back then, I only learned about a reliable report which basically confirmed the open letter of the four when I had contacted Wang Fengbo. It was a report by a church-owned press agency, Evangelischer Pressedienst or EPD. This rather comprehensive report wasn’t online, but available from a database, accessible for all interested media, according to former DW editor Li Qi’s “China Nightmare of Deutsche Welle” (published in 2012).

2010 及2011的过程 — 王凤波,朱虹,李琦,及王雪 被停职的时候 — 是中国媒体报道的,但是德国媒体所报道的有关消息很少。虽然我当时比较关注德国之声的故事,但我跟王凤波联络之后才知道有一个可靠的,基本上确定王凤波和他三个被开除的同事在他们 公开信 所描述情况的报道。那个报道是德国福音教会的通讯社,Evangelischer Pressedienst (EPD)。他们的比较全面性的报道不在线的,但是据德国之声被停职编辑员李琦2012所出版的《德国之声的中国梦魇》,德国所有感兴趣的媒体会入口EPD的资料库。看来没有德国媒体感兴趣。

The current case of Su Yutong is covered by German, international, and Chinese media.

现在展现的苏雨桐事件是在德国报道的,又是在国际媒体报道的,又是在中国媒体报道的。

Deutsche Welle QSL card confirming reception of Kigali relay station, on September 6, 2014, at 04:00 UTC.

If you think that JR and Deutsche Welle don’t communicate with each other, you are wrong: DW QSL card

Zhang Danhong coverage (2008) / 关于张丹红的报道

One could summarize that Zhang Danhong’s case in 2008 got some attention from German and from Chinese media. Of course, German and Chinese mainstream media looked at things differently. In Germany, there were rather many allegations of Zhang Danhong’s „communist leanings“. Most of these reports didn’t express their own views but quoted activists, politicians, etc.. Purportedly, these media had no opinion of their own. This rather subtle approach is also becoming more widely spread in Chinese media.

总的来讲,2008年的张丹红事件在德国,中国的媒体都有所反映。当然,德国主流媒体和中国主流媒体的看法和说明完全不一样。在德国,ZDH 的 „亲共“ 的指控比较多。这些媒体的报道中,大多数不表示自己的看法,但是引述积极分子,政治家,等等的说法。据称,这些媒体报道就没有自己的看法。这个微妙的做法在中国的媒体也越来越多。

What can be compared, and what can’t (2014) ? / 什么事情可不可以比较?

DW director Peter Limbourg said in a German television broadcast last week that Su Yutong’s exit had been a single case. And Su Yutong said in an interview with Boxun that her exit could not be compared with the case of Zhang Danhong.

在上个星期播送的一个德国电视台的节目中,德国之声台长彼得•林堡说苏雨桐被离职是单一的事情。但是苏雨桐受博讯访问时说,她自己和张丹红的事件这根本没有可比性

Limbourg is wrong: Su Yutong’s exit is no single case. It can be compared with the end of Wang Fengbo’s, Zhu Hong’s, Li Qi’s, and Wang Xueding’s employment.

但是林堡说的部队。苏雨桐被离职不是单一的事情。跟王凤波,朱虹,李琦,及王雪在2010,2011年被停职的情况可以比较。

And Su Yutong, Boxun, and DW, are all silent about those four cases from 2010 and 2011.

此外,苏雨桐,博讯,其他异议人士等等和DW有一个共同的特点:虽然他们的政治观点看来不一样,他们似乎都不愿意谈到2010/2011年在德国之声被停职的编辑员。

This has become DW’s and the dissidents’ common credibility gap.

现在,这个共同的特点是德国之声及异议人士共同的信誉差距。

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Main related tag:

» Deutsche Welle

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Related

» Be more Xinhua, Oct 10, 2009

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Deutsche Welle: Invincible in the Labor Courts, vulnerable in Propaganda Wars

In an interview with dissident website Boxun (rendered here by Beijing Spring), Su Yutong (苏雨桐) spoke about her dismissal by German international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW):

Personally, I think this isn’t necessarily a good thing to happen, because but this incident may provide a glimpse on many things, it may lead to further debate, such as to which degree have Western media been infiltrated? Is the personal freedom of speech of people at the media protected or not? When you look at it from this perspective, [my dismissal] is an absolutely positive thing to happen. This is the opposite case of the one we had after the Zhang Danhong incident. We can also, from one side, verify the reach of the hands of the Chinese Communist Party to every corner of the world. How Western democratic societies can resist the Chinese autocratic pattern, which comes with money, needs to be reflected upon.

对于“被离职”,苏雨桐向博讯记者表示:“我觉得于我个人来说,未必是一件令人高兴的事情,但这个事件可以窥见很多东西,也可能会引起接下来的讨 论,西方媒体被渗透的程度?媒体人的私人言论自由受不受保护?从这个意见上来说,完全是一件积极的事情。这是自张丹红事件后,与之相反的一个案例,也可以 从一个侧面印证中共的手伸到世界各个角落。更大的思考在于,西方民主社会如何抵抗带着金钱袭来的中国独裁模式。”

Boxun asked about “similarities and differences” between how Su and Zhang Danhong (张丹红), in 2008, had been treated by DW.

Su Yutong said that this was absolutely not comparable. “I was dismissed, and Zhang Danhong was not. She was moved to another department. That’s one difference. The other is that Zhang Danhong spoke in favor of an autocracy. This touched upon a bottomline of values. But DW still wouldn’t dismiss her, and only found that her position and her values weren’t suitable for her work as deputy chief editor at DW Chinese department. So she was transferred to another department. But I was dismissed, based on a technicality (the so-called leaking of DW internal information), for opposing a columnist who defended an autocracy.

苏雨桐表示,这根本没有可比性。“我是被离职,而张丹红从未被离职,是调职,这是第一。第二,张丹红为专制辩护,触到提价值底线,但德国之声并没 有辞退她,而是认为她的立场和价值观不适合做中文部副主任,调职。而我是因为反对为专制辩护的专栏作者,被以技术性原因(所谓的泄露德国之声内部消息)为 由被离职。”

There aren’t only differences at Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department. According to a DW editor who spoke with German daily Junge Welt in May this year, on condition of anonymity, said that they were compelled to refer to the Crimea referendum in March as the “illegal” or “so-called” referendum.  And more in general, editorials about Russian president Vladimir Putin were only written by editors deemed “suitable” for the topic. What if the anonymous editor would not write in conformity with the prescribed terminology? Answer:

I hope I will never know what happens in such a case. Many try to circumvent the requirements by using less problematic synonyms. It is, after all, fertile soil for censorship when you need to support a family with two children, working on a fixed-term contract. Eventually, you’ll find yourself censoring yourself – because you want to keep your job, you write in a way that won’t cause offense. There are many good journalists at DW, but I haven’t seen great rebels there yet.

Ich hoffe, daß ich nie erfahren werde, was in einem solchen Fall passiert. Viele versuchen die Vorgaben zu umgehen, indem sie z.B. weniger problematische Synonyme benutzen. Es ist halt ein fruchtbarer Boden für die Zensur, wenn man als Journalist eine Familie mit zwei Kindern ernähren muß und auf Basis von Zeitverträgen arbeitet. Irgendwann ertappt man sich bei der Selbstzensur – weil man seinen Job behalten will, schreibt man so, daß es keinen Anstoß erregt. Gute Journalisten gibt es bei der DW massenweise – große Rebellen sind mir bisher aber nicht aufgefallen.

The problem here is that getting rid of quasi-employees is easy for Deutsche Welle. Strictly speaking, based on labor-law terms, Su Yutong wasn’t even dismissed. Su’s contract “expires” next year, and won’t get “renewed”. The same was the case with Wang Fengbo (王凤波) and some of his colleagues at DW whose contracts expired in 2010 or 2011. But for whatever reason, Boxun apparently didn’t ask Su Yutong questions about similarities with these former colleagues’ cases.

Deutsche Welle appears to have become nearly invincible in the labor courts. But on the other hand, the management’s apparent influence on content has also made the organization an ideal battleground for propaganda wars – when there is a lack of professional principle, everything becomes possible. Beijing and the dissidents have apparently seized these opportunities first. But other players will keep succeeding – until Deutsche Welle becomes a believable source for news again, or until German parliament lays the station to rest forever.

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Related posts under the Deutsche Welle tag.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Deutsche Welle: the Pendulum Swings back (and strikes again)

While a comparatively early report by Guanchazhe (Shanghai) came across as sort of neutral, a report by Huanqiu Shibao (the Chinese-language sister of the “Global Times”) on Monday used the Su Yutong vs Deutsche Welle story for a bit of domestic nation-building. Using purported netizen comments, Huanqiu criticizes Su for being “naive”:

“You are reporting negative news about China all day long and think Germans will like you for that? Naive! You are planning to sue Deutsche Welle for violating local labor laws? What a joke. You don’t understand Germany and German law. When you leak a company’s internal information, the company has every reason to discharge you”, some netizens said.

“你整天报道中国的负面新闻,德国人就喜欢你?幼稚! 还准备起诉德国之声违反当地劳动法?笑话。太不了解德国和德国的法律。光泄漏企业内部的信息,企业就完全有理由开除你。”有网友说。

The paper leaves much of the criticism to “netizens”, but adds some message of its own, too. According to a BBC survey [probably Globescan], China’s image in Germany had been deteriorating for a decade, and 76 percent of Germans currently held a negative view of China, writes Huanqiu. That journalists like Su Yutong, from important positions, were blackening China’s name had something to do with the country’s negative image. When Chinese people badmouthed other Chinese people, ordinary people abroad tended to believe them.

We, too, hate some dark phenomena in our country, but we also hope and believe our motherland will improve. Reasonable overseas Chinese people will be happy and proud about China’s economic construction and development during the past thirty years. China has its shortcomings and you can criticize them, but not with a maximum zoom, and opposition against everything.

我们痛恨自己国家的一些阴暗现象,但更希望并坚信,我们的祖国会越来越好。任何一个有良知的海外华人,都会对中国这30多年来的经济建设发展感到万分的庆幸与骄傲。中国有缺点可以批评,但不能无限放大,更不能逢中必反。

The article also describes the development of Sino-German trade and adds that during the sanctions on and from Russia, Germany’s economy had shrunk by 0.2 percent during the second quarter this year. And using comments on overseas-Chinese social media, Huanqiu suggests that “constant negative headlines at Deutsche Welle about China wouldn’t help bilateral cooperation”.

The Asia-Pacific Committee of German Business (APA) would probably agree. When German chancellor Angela Merkel visited China during summer, the APA had recommendations for the two heads of government, Merkel and Li Keqiang, concerning a better climate for Chinese investment in Germany. Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa) reported:

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. […]

The APA doesn’t need to be “behind” the most recent events at Deutsche Welle, and if the links are as crude as suggested both by Huanqiu Shibao and some of Su Yutong’s supporters remains an open question. But there seems to be a trend towards cozying up to Beijing – and the pendulum that hit Zhang Danhong in 2008, and four more of her colleagues at the DW Chinese department in 2010 on its way to more “China-unfriendly” coverage, now seems to have hit Su Yutong, on its way back to more “China-friendly” coverage.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Federal Labor Court rejects former Deutsche Welle Journalist’s Case, confirms previous Instances

Zhu Hong‘s case was rejected by the federal labor court in Erfurt on Thursday for not being conclusive. In the court’s view, Zhu hadn’t been discriminated against for her convictions, because it didn’t matter if and where something like a Communist worldview still existed (Es könne dahinstehen, so das BAG, ob und wo heute noch eine “kommunistische Weltanschauung” o.ä. existiert). (In this context, the court apparently confirmed that Zhu had no Communist convictions and was no member of the CCP.)

Even if Deutsche Welle wanted more  journalistic distance between itself and the government in Beijing, and even if this had been the reason for Deutsche Welle to terminate cooperation with Zhu, this did not mean that Zhu had been discriminated against for her convictions.

Also, sympathy for a country didn’t spell sympathy for a party behind a government.

Source: juris.de

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Zhu Hong is one of four former Deutsche Welle journalists or editors who lost their jobs or contracts in 2010 and 2011. At least two of the four, Zhu Hong and Wang Fengbo, went to court. Zhu Hong lost at the first instance at the local labor court in Bonn, in March 2011, and again at the second instance, at the Landesarbeitsgericht (state labor court) in Cologne, early in 2012. Zhu had argued that the termination of her work for Deutsche Welle – after some 23 years – had come in the wake of the Zhang Danhong controversy, which had been lasting since summer 2008. The controversy, with Deutsche Welle, Chinese or Chinese-born dissidents in Germany and overseas, and a group of German authors as substantial participants, had reportedly compelled Deutsche Welle director Bettermann to commission a former television news anchor, Ulrich Wickert, with authoring an opinion.

Wickert’s opinion was never officially released, and only part of it became known in the press. It comprehensively acquitted the Chinese department. But while Wickert’s findings seem to have played a role in the labor dispute and in some or all of the hearings, they remained unpublished.

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According to Wang Fengbo, one of Zhu’s former DW colleagues who followed the hearing in Erfurt, chairing judge Friedrich Hauck said that Deutsche Welle had to be seen as a Tendenzbetrieb.

This term needs some explanation – Eurofound provides a definition: “tendential” establishments would be those in which, owing to the nature of its particular purpose, the provisions of the works constitution are only partly applicable. […] The category covers all establishments which serve political, religious, charitable, educational, scientific or artistic aims or engage in news reporting and the expression of opinion.

Church-run kindergartens, for example, are usually Tendenzbetriebe. While other kindergartens – commercially- or state-run – are not allowed to consider the faith of an employee a factor, church-run kindergartens, schools, etc. may do so.

Eurofound addresses the issue of journalism and Tendenzbetriebe more specifically here.

Political parties, labor unions, employer associations, and even printing plans that belong to a newspaper group would be Tendenzbetriebe – not to mention the papers themselves, privately-owned papers included. Co-determination, a German concept of co-management of a company by its employees, is also limited in Tendenzbetriebe.

There was a rather big audience – some thirty people, apparently law students with no partiulcar interest in Zhu’s case, but looking on as part of their studies.

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These are some initial impressions. Wang Fengbo described his and his three former colleagues’ story in an interview early last year, and a link collection with related posts can be found here (I realize that the collection could use some updates).

More details may follow.

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Updates/Related

» Vorwürfe müssen belegt werden, DJV, June 21, 2013
» Ein BAG-Urteil und seine Vorgeschichte, June 20, 2013

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another “Media Scandal”: Anti-CNN crops Li Qi’s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”

The following is an article published by April Media (四月网) in October this year, a review of Li Qi‘s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” (China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle). Anti-CNN was turned into April Media in 2009.

Links within blockquote added during translation; I added my remarks about the review underneath.

April Media’s Book Review

2008 was a memorable year. It was a year of a global uproar because of China, and it was a year where, for the first time, Chinese people became collectively excited. The uproar began with the Tibet incident in March that year, with the excitement going against Western media reporting and the way it had created an uproar for no reason. In the West, people took to the streets to protest against China’s “repression” of Tibetans, obstructing the torch ralleye to the Olympic Games which were for the first time held in Beijing. All over the world, Chinese people without an interest in politics also loudly expressed their anger at the West’s one-sided, distorted coverage.

2008是一个令人难忘的年头。那是一个世界因为中国而沸腾的年头,那是一个全世界华人首次全体激动起来的年头。那个沸腾始于是年三月的西藏事件;那个激动始于对西方报导及其引发的西方“无端”沸腾的不满。在西方,人们走上街头抗议中国“镇压”藏族人,阻挠首次在中国举办的奥运会的火炬之行。在世界上,从不关心政治的华人也站起来大声地表达对西方的片面、扭曲的报导的愤怒。

“The Voice of Germany’s China Nightmare” was written by a Chinese with many years of work experience in Western media, and describes what happened at the “Voice of Germany” and other German media from the Tibet incident to the end of 2011. It is a mere description, fully reflecting the predicament of Western media coverage on China with detailed material.

《德国之声的中国梦魇》这本书是一名在西方媒体工作多年的华人记者写的,记述了西藏事件至2011年底发生在“德国之声”和其它德国媒体中的事情。它仅仅是记述,是详尽的资料,但充分反映了西方媒体在中国报导中所处的窘境。这种窘境在20世纪末就已经发生,它至今仍然持续着。

The predicament, to say it clearly, is a kind of phobia against China’s rise. After hundreds of years of habitually reporting objectively, reflected in the law, they turned away from their own law and principles to a great degree. They can’t, for example, dare to mention the good aspects of China, even when the economy is the topic. They still have to involve politics, and within positive coverage, there still needs to be some criticism. Even in international disputes, there is a natural belief that China isn’t good. When it comes to the most recent Diaoyu Islands dispute, for example, Western media mostly use the Japanese name, clearly standing on Japan’s side, leading Western readers to a tendency which is just as clear.

这种窘境,说穿了就是一种对中国崛起的恐惧症。几百年来养成了客观报导的习惯、并将之大写在各种法律里的西方媒体,在很大程度上背离了自己的法律和原则:不能、不敢说中国好的方面,即使是谈经济,也要牵扯政治,在好的报导中也要有所批评。甚至在国际争端中,也自然而然地认定中国不好。比如在最近的钓鱼岛争端中,西方媒体大多用日本的岛名,明显地站在日本一边,导致西方读者也有了明显的倾向。

Within this “China isn’t good” discourse, within this envelope of China “phobia”, also on German television, radio, internet and in- and outside an international broadcaster’s television station – “Voice of Germany” -, a series of scandals occurred. In August 2008, ahead of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games, this station’s Chinese-department’s Zhang Danhong said on German television that China’s overcoming of poverty was a great achievement. It triggered attacks from overseas dissidents and German media. This grew into attacks on the comparatively objective and comprehensive coverage of the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department. Some overseas dissidents, quickly and at will, fabricated a deceptive representation of [Deutsche Welle] Chinese broadcasting and online departments that were “China-friendly” and “CCP-friendly”. Some German journalists and politicians blindly believed those fabrications without checking the accusations. The so-called “German Author Circle of the German Federal Republic” even suggested that the Voice of Germany’s Chinese department should be purged and be comprehensively supervised in its China coverage. A surge of open letters to Germany’s federal parliament emerged, and in a wave of at least ten open letters and several tens of German media reports, the German parliament also became involved. Chinese media surged, too.

在这种中国“不好论”、中国“恐惧症”笼罩下,于是在德国集电视、广播、互联网于一体的国际广播电视台“德国之声”内外,发生了一系列的丑闻。在2008年8月,北京奥运开幕之际,该台中国部张丹红在德国电视台说中国除贫是重大贡献,引起了海外异议人士和德国媒体的围攻。继而扩散到对在西藏事件等方面相对客观地、比较全面地展开报导的德国之声中文部的攻击。一些海外异议人士凭空捏造、随意组合,创建了一个“亲华亲共”的德国之声中文广播和网络部报导的假象。一些德国记者、政治家盲目地相信这些捏造,而根本不去核对那些指责。所谓的“联邦德国作家圈”甚至提出要清洗德国之声中文编辑部、全面监督对华报导。一轮向德国联邦议院发公开信的热潮涌现了,在先后至少十封公开信和几十个德国媒体的报导热潮中,德国联邦议院也插手了。中国媒体在这个热潮冲击下同样汹涌澎湃。

The final examination report shows that the allegations against the Voice of Germany’s Chinese editorial department were completely slanderous. Originally, this matter should have been over by then. But the Voice of Germany’s leaders got trapped in fear, and went into disarray. From early in 2009, this international media unit implemented” the original demands which had been comprehensively repudiated [by the investigation]: it invited people “immune against the CCP” to examine the reporting – in violation of Germany’s constitution, and editors who adhered to the legal principles of objective coverage were put under pressure, up to the expulsion of four editors and reporters.

最后的审核结论表明,对德国之声中文编辑部的指责纯属子虚乌有。本来,这件事情应该过去了。可是,德国之声领导完全陷入了恐慌之中,在胜利中自乱阵脚。从2009年开始,这个国际媒体全面“执行”了本来被它全面推翻了的对方的要求:请“免疫”于共产主义的台外人员对中文节目展开违反德国宪法的新闻检查;对坚持德国法律规定的客观报导原则的编辑、记者实施打压,直到把四名编辑、记者开除出去。

In October 2012, “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” was published by August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag [sic]. It describes, with detailed material, revealing many creepy scandals. Some examples as follows.

2012年10月出版的德语版《德国之声的中国梦魇》(China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle,出版社:August von Goehte Lieteraturverlag)一书以详实的资料,记述了整个过程,揭露了许多令人毛骨悚然的丑闻。在此举例如下。

I’m not going to translate April Media’s list line by line, but only mention them very roughly here –

  • the way dissidents were believed and the inclination to believe them because of their suitable China-isn’t-good narrative;
  • how the Deutsche Welle management abandoned “the fruits of victory” (胜利果实);
  • how – in the eyes of many listeners and readers, April Media adds -, the station became a voice of dissidents and Falun Gong, etc., thus abandoning Deutsche Welle director’s assertion that they were neither CCP’s, nor of the dissidents’ mouthpiece;
  • the “monitor” (Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph), with an emphasis on how he allegedly objected to the term “mainland”, and demanding the use of “China” and “Taiwan” instead;
  • inviting a “Tibetan separatist” to comment on the Yushu earthquake, with politicized remarks not related to the earthquake, or referring to Xinjiang as East Turkestan;
  • violating the principles of objective journalism, and the German constitution;
  • “Lying in court”;
  • Falun-Gong guidance on German media and Deutsche Welle, beginning with the Zhang-Danhong affair.

After describing several episodes from “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”, April Media returns to the issue of “sinophobia”. While the book can’t solve problems, it can describe otherwise rather hidden issues, the reviewer suggests. And it “can also help Chinese people to understand the West and Germany more comprehensively”.

Remarks

First of all, April Media’s review should not be held against Li Qi, in my view – just as the way Chinese media presented Zhang Danhong – a German citizen, btw, according to Li – as a Chinese-motherland-superhero four years ago, should not be held against Zhang.  Li Qi wrote the book, not April Media’s review of it.

The review leaves an important episode out – one that Li himself addresses in his book: Zhang Danhong’s “interview with herself”, i. e. an intern or – rather, according to Li – a newbie in the department asking the questions. Li would go along with the review in that the Deutsche Welle management “abandoned the fruits of victory” without need – but he does see Zhang’s “interview” as the turning point. The following is based on my understanding of Li Qi’s chapter on the issue. I’ll base the following paragraphs on my understanding of that chapter.

Zhang had a dispute with He Qinglian, a dissident living in America. He Qinglian had alleged that Zhang had asked her, in 2005, to write no comments commentaries for the department anymore, but rather to report about China. He Qinglian considered that a request to terminate her assignment with Deutsche Welle, because reporting about China was difficult when living in the U.S.. In an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, He alleged that the Chinese propaganda department had been involved in the decision.

Li Qi felt that he could relate to the anger of the department managers. After all, they had been targeted by He Qinglian.

But I felt that such remarks weren’t worth a debate. What mattered was that the absurd accusations that we had been red infiltrators had been staved off.

The online department manager suggested to care about more important things when Zhang approached her, asking if an online colleague could do the interview with her. Zhang did it anyway. The release online then apparently followed a misunderstanding about “intranet” and “internet”.

Here is the crux – in my view: the Deutsche Welle management certainly felt that they had done their best to defend the integrity of the Chinese department. They had faced criticism, public uproars, inquiries from politics, and had seen it all through. And there came some small-minded editors with a “the-winner-takes-it-all” mentality who wouldn’t want to spare a single point, when it came to the “enemy”.  To be clear – I’m speculating about the mindsets here.

“Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare” leaves the impression that Li doesn’t want to criticize the incident – but that he doesn’t want to condone it either.

Probably, nobody would have had to hit the roof (but Deutsche Welle’s top managers did, according to Li’s book). And the “interview incident” did pose questions about the department’s state of the art – , if nothing else had done that previously.

But the irony is that all this apparently turned into a political purge after all, rather than into continuous improvement (there’s no place where improvement would be unwarranted, is there?). And Li Qi and his colleagues were hardly to blame for the “interview incident”. According to Li, neither of the four online editors sacked in 2010/2011 was really responsible for the “self-interview”.

But April Media’s information – much of it apparently accurate, some of it half-true, and some of it – apparently – a wilful omission – is relevant all the same. It is relevant because it is among the media that cover the issue at all.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

[Added:] Book Review: Li Qi’s “Deutsche Welle’s China Nightmare”

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world”, wrote Ludwig Wittgenstein, and that’s true. You get very different comments, depending on the language you use on the internet. I’m realizing that I should have written about Deutsche Welle in German much earlier, say, since 2008. The share of Germans who read English-language blogs is probably much higher than the share of Chinese who do so – because English and German are much more similar to each other than English and Chinese, or because we are culturally closer, etc.. But that doesn’t mean that you can “reach” Germans with English.

That said, you have to find media here who would actually accept posts about Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department. Der Freitag seems to be one.

The following is what I wrote there, in the community section. Think of it as the book review in English I promised on Tuesday.

Public Diplomacy. Qi Li is a German citizen. From 2001 to 2011, he worked at Deutsche Welle. The “expiration of his contract” was a big media topic in China. In Germany, it wasn’t.

When Zhang Danhong, deputy Chinese department manager back then, made controversial remarks about China’s political issues during public appearances more than four years ago, it was well documented by the media. No wonder: 2008 was the year of the Beijing Olympics, and the “China” topic topped the agendas of many German papers and broadcasters.

Not only Zhang’s public-appearance comments, at Kölner Stadtanzeiger (a paper) or Deutschlandfunk (radio) were controversial; Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department became controversial, too. Dissidents who lived in Germany wrote a letter to the German Bundestag (federal parliament) on September 13, 2008:

We believe that Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department – broadcasting mainly in Chinese – is, to a large extent, isolated from German society and functioning like an island. This has led to a striking deviation from Deutsche Welle’s mission statement, to promote democracy and human rights and to explain Germany to the world.

It wasn’t necessarily the first letter from dissidents against an allegedly misguided editorial department. And according to Li Qi, who published his working experience with Deutsche Welle’s Chinese online department (2001 – 2011) last month, it wasn’t that much the open letter written by the dissidents that got Deutsche Welle into hot waters, but a letter by the “Deutscher Autorenkreis” (German authors’ club) ten days later. Li:

I’ve learned through the years that Germans take Germans seriously. The dissidents’ letter didn’t unsettle Deutsche Welle or the Bundestag. They might have been ignored forever, even though many of them have taken German citizenship long ago. And Zhang Danhong, too, was constantly described as “Chinese” by German media, even though that wasn’t correct, in terms of citizenship.

Back then, Deutsche Welle reacted publicly. Zhang Danhong was temporarily suspended from work at the microphone, and lost her position as the Chinese department’s deputy manager. Above all, however, the Chinese department’s work – and that of the online editors in particular – was investigated. A translation agency translated the Chinese articles back into German, and former German ARD (channel-1) correspondent and “Tagesthemen” (a newsshow) editor Ulrich Wickert reviewed them. “You are free to decide about the results. You are completely free in this regard” (Sie entscheiden, was am Ende herauskommt. Sie sind völlig frei), Süddeutsche Zeitung’s Hans Leyendecker quoted Deutsche Welle director Erik Bettermann, months later.

Wickert’s findings: accusations of slanted China coverage were completely unfounded. Wickert didn’t only criticize that politicians had picked up the accusations unchecked, but also that the director, apparently because of public and political pressure … [took personnel decisions] hastily and unjustifiedly. To be clear, this wasn’t about Zhang Danhong’s public-appearance remarks, but about the Chinese editorial department’s work.

Wickert’s report remained unpublished. Different to the original allegations, it gave no rise to headlines. It took an inquiry by the Süddeutsche Zeitung to Bettermann, who reportedly rated Wickert’s report as “very good work – great”. Bettermann didn’t want to publish the report however, so as “not to revive the China debate again”.

When reading Li’s book, you can hardly escape the feeling that Deutsche Welle has been very successful at that.

Four online editors at the China department lost their freelance assignments or jobs respectively, in 2010 and 2011. If and how far the “freelance” assignments amounted to “employee-like” contracts (arbeitnehmerähnlich Beschäftigte), and if and how far the jobs had to count as temporary (befristet) can’t be discussed here. Some of that still seems to be disputed at the labor courts – Wang Fengbo expects his case to be at the federal labor court this month.

More interestingly, Deutsche Welle – despite Wickert’s acquittal – prescribed a “monitor” for the Chinese department, Jörg-Meinhard Rudolph from Ludwigshafen. Officially, he was meant to monitor style and language/expression, and to correct those, if need be. In fact, according to an open letter by the four former employees, he rated how “close” to the CCP (or how distant to it) articles written by the editorial department were.

It was an angry letter, published by the four at the online paper “Neue Rheinische Zeitung” in April 2011, and even just for its length, it was no journalistic masterpiece. But its content is mostly authenticated. Deutsche Welle employees committee member Christian Hoppe, quoted by EPD in May 2011:

Some of the letter’s phrasing had been overboard, said Hoppe, but by and large, the events in the editorial department were described accurately (die Autoren des „offenen Briefs“ seien „mit einigen Formulierungen über das Ziel hinausgeschossen“, würden jedoch “die Vorgänge in der Redaktion insgesamt korrekt wiedergeben”).

According to Li, Wang Fengbo and another colleague met a journalist in Cologne for two hours, in the evening on April 14, 2011. The journalist, himself a freelancer, “wanted to report about it, but didn’t know what his superiors thought” (Li’s account). “In fact, we never heard about a report at his paper.”

But another source did report, as quoted above. Li:

You can’t google the report, though, because it can only be read at “epd medien”. Press agencies like dpa, ap, epd enter their stories into a database. That’s how they make them available to the media.

The book – Li categorizes it as reportage – isn’t above the story. There is bitterness in some of its chapters. But it is a schoolbook for a number of cultural and political issues: “intergration“, suspicions of extremism, public diplomacy (and how it shoots itself in the foot, “politically”), journalism, labor law, and – one begins to suspect – about the despair of superiors who have to execute an agenda which can’t be plausibly explained to any reasonable contemporary.

Not least: about how a public institution (apparently) got into the eddying of a parallel society. That “parallel society” isn’t malign in the way rednecks would have it. It isn’t malign at all. But politics faces it without a clue, unprepared and sort of trigger-happy.

While the Chinese press reported – and someties raged – extensively, there was almost no German coverage. “Is the topic of no interest for German media?”, Li asks towards the end of his book. It’s not only him – Wang Fengbo, too, finds that hard to believe.

They aren’t Eva Herman or Susan Stahnke, obviously. Deutsche Welle may only be known to those Germans who, into the 1990s, took their shortwave receivers to Mallorca, or before travelling the world. But when it is about good journalism – at a public broadcaster (or a public media platform), public interest seems likely. And if one is inclined to believe that a number of Deutsche-Welle employees were wronged, this poses questions about the usual practice in our media: how well (or badly) do we actually want to be informed?

Li Qi: “China-Albtraum der Deutschen Welle”, August-von-Goethe Literaturverlag, Frankfurt a/M, 2012.
Only available in German.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Questions Raised on “Germany Hotline” (德国热线) about Layoffs at Deutsche Welle

A thread on a German-Chinese website, Germany Hotline (德国热线), is currently discussing an open letter, written by former Deutsche Welle employees Wang Fengbo, Zhu Hong, Li Qi, and Wang Xueding. The thread includes a link to one of this blog’s posts, and one to Neue Rheinische Zeitung – the online paper which originally published the open letter, in April 2011.

A number of questions are raised in the Germany-Hotline thread. As I’m no registered user at Germany Hotline, I’ll try to provide some information about the issue by writing this post.

There is one question raised  in the German Hotline thread which seems to go to the heart of the matter:

The judge said that “Once Deutsche Welle suspects that an employee is a CCP element, no evidence is needed to dismiss him or her.” Where is the original document with that line? (法官还称“只要德国之声怀疑它的员工是共产分子,那么无需证据就可将他们开除”。  这句话的德语原文在哪里?)

I wrote to the court – Landesarbeitsgericht Köln – in March this year and asked for information about the communism statement. The court’s spokesperson replied that – this is how I understand his answer – the records usually only state the decision, and the paragraphs and reasons a judge bases his or her decision on. The records of the court hearing in question – on that day – did not contain the line in question, i. e. the one about dismissals on communism suspicions without evidence.

I can’t tell if the hearing was audio-recorded, or stenographed – and if the spokesperson checked an audio-recording or stenographed record, or just the final version of the record.

That said, an EPD reporter was at the court hearing on that day, and reported that the judge did indeed address the “communist-nazi” issue, saying that once Deutsche Welle, as a public broadcaster (Anstalt des öffentlichen Rechts) suspected an employee of being a communist or a supporter of national socialism (i. e. nazi ideology), this was a sufficient reason to terminate the employment. The EPD report was also picked up by Radio Eins (Radio Berlin-Brandenburg), but I haven’t seen it published anywhere else in Germany. I believe the report is trustworthy, but did not become popular among news people (or their bosses) here in Germany, because it doesn’t make our country look good.

Communism or nazism had not been the issue in Deutsche Welle’s argument in court – it isn’t clear why the judge made this kind of statement. The actual issue was if the terms of employment – a fixed-term employment contract – had been in accordance with the law. However, “communism” had played a role in a political brawl about statements by Zhang Danhong. Her case, however, hadn’t led to a dismissal.

Wang Fengbo told his side of the story in this interview, in January this year. I requested Deutsche Welle’s side of the story last month, but haven’t received an answer to date. There is no public debate about the case in Germany. As far as the former Deutsche Welle’s employees’ open letter, published by the Neue Rheinische Zeitung, is concerned, a member of the Deutsche Welle employee committee was quoted by Evangelischer Pressedienst as saying that some of the letter’s phrasing had been overboard, but that by and large, the events had been described accurately.

A chronological list of my posts about Zhang Danhong – and later Wang Fengbo – can be found here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Deutsche Welle – JR’s Chronological Link Collection

This blog’s main topic is China – and if I had thought of sub-topics, it would probably have been the economy, or translations from the Chinese press. Deutsche Welle‘s (or the Voice of Germany‘s) Chinese department only appeared on my radar screen about a month after the first open letter to German federal parliament had started to make (small) waves in the German press.

But no story has kept me as curious since – and given that Deutsche Welle is no mainstream topic, it might be just the right topic for a small blog. My interest in China goes far beyond the Welle, but as long as there is no comprehensive debate about the station’s or website’s Chinese department – one that would include the Welle itself, as a participant -, this blog will try to provide a makeshift substitute for such a debate. It would be nice if I could run this topic in German and Chinese, as well, but that would go beyond what I can do. English may be a compromise.

I’ve found out that the best use for it is as a sort of log book of what I thought about something in particular at a particular time, Foarp said in a BoZhu interview in November. But that requires a somewhat systematic approach – one that goes beyond tagging and categorizing. So here it is: JR’s chronological link collection. They are all links to my own posts, but the key words are taking care of the listed posts’ external links, too. Making a link collection about external sources will be a task for another day.

Chinese dissidents’ complaints about Deutsche Welle’s Chinese department November 2008 »
Key words: Zhang Danhong, Zhou Derong, Epoch Times, Huanqiu Shibao, Lutz Rathenow, Frank Sieren
German China scientists, publicists and politicians defend Zhang Danhong) in an open letter; in another open letter,  authors, legislators (from Hong Kong) and researchers criticize the defenders. November 2008 »
Key words: Hans-Peter Bartels, Georg Blume, Chiao Wei, Herta Däubler-Gmelin, Johnny Erling, Helwig Schmidt-Glintzer, Günter Grass, Thomas Heberer, Sebastian Heilmann, Hanjo Kesting;
Albert Ho, Emily Lau, Tsering Woeser, Harry Wu
Zeng Jinyan wins Deutsche Welle blog award November 2008 »
Key words: Zeng Jinyan
Chinese departments translations from German reports are re-translated, Zhang Danhong has an interview with herself, and department head Matthias von Hein is moved to the central editorial department January 2009 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Matthias von Hein, Ulrich Wickert, Zhang Danhong
German Media Prize for Dalai Lama, and a DW interview with Kelsang Gyaltsen, the Dalai Lama’s representative in Europe. February 2009 »
Key words: coverage, Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyaltsen, Tibet, Li Baodong
DW turns from German to foreign listeners; DW director general demands more funding. February 2009 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Global Media Forum
Zhang Danhong remains in the (Chinese) news March 2009 »
Key words: Chinese press, Günter Grass, Zhang Danhong
Probe still in progress? DW’s quality test March 2009 »
Key words: Matthias von Hein, Hu Xingdou, Zhang Danhong
DW Chinese department acquitted March 2009 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Georg Blume, Freimut Duve, Hans Leyendecker, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Ulrich Wickert
Dissenting voices, lack of trust (signatures for Martin Jahnke?) April 2009 »
Key words: Wang Rongfen
Foreign broadcasters and their critics: “One shouldn’t simply imply that the broadcaster wants to sit the problem out.” May 2009 »
Key words: BBC, JR quotes, Barry Sautman, procedures
Kofi Owusu attends Voice of Germany‘s 2nd Global Media Forum in Bonn June 2009 »
Key words: Global Media Forum
New head for Chinese service July 2009 »
Key words: Adrienne Woltersdorf
Urumqi party secretary sacked September 2009 »
Key words: coverage
Perception and Reality – Frankfurt Book Fair September 2009 »
Key words: coverage
Global local sticks tv, and external expertise October 2009 »
Key words: Roland Berger
Too correct to be turned back February 2010 »
Key words: coverage, Feng Zhenghu
Dorks on Duty April 2010 »
Key words: Volker Bräutigam, Henryk M. Broder, Ma Canrong, Neue Rheinische Zeitung
Xu Pei and the Dirty Old Men May 2010 »
Key words: Wolf Biermann, Günter Grass, Xu Pei, Mo Yan, Zhang Danhong,
All highly quotable May 2010 »
Key words: Georg Blume
Kadeer: Taiwan is a free country July 2010 »
Key words: coverage, Rebiya Kadeer, Taiwan, Raela Tosh
Kosovo status July 2010 »
Key words: coverage
Arnulf Kolstad confirms Xinhua interview October 2010 »
Key words: coverage
Li Keqiang’s Germany visit January 2011 »
Key words: coverage
Just another German review of the Chinese press January 2011 »
Key words: coverage
DW reshuffles – freelancer at Chinese department loses contract April 2011 »
Key words: industrial relations
The too-friendly maikefeng April 2011 »
Key words: Ai Weiwei, Wolfgang Kubin, censorship, Neru Kaneah
DW cuts shortwave, targets “opinion leaders” May 2011 »
Key words: opinion leaders (mind the footnote)
JR’s searchword service May 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press
Huanqiu wades into the details May 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press
Come on, let’s twist again May 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press, Wei Jingsheng, Neru Kaneah, Jörg Rudolph, Taiwan
Dutch Values: another broadcaster bites the dust June 2011 »
Key words: Erik Bettermann, Jan Hoek
Foreign office “Africa Concept”: universal values, competing interests July 2011 »
Key words: business, diplomacy, soft power
Changes at DW Chinese department – JR turns to science December 2011 »
Key words: Chinese press, Song Luzheng, Wang Fengbo
But aren’t you an ally of the government? December 2011 »
Key words: Liu Xiaobo, Tilman Spengler
Deutsche Welle: negotiations with politics December 2011 »
Key words: Manfred Kops, Christian Michalek
“Soft power”: comparing China and Europe (a benign Chinese look on DW) January 2012 »
Key words: He Zengke, soft power
End of the radio era at DW January 2012 »
Key words: Valentin Schmidt
Yiwu court hearing: no way to treat a diplomat January 2012 »
Key words: coverage
Hu Jia questioned, Yu Jie leaves China January 2012 »
Key words: coverage
DW on Yu Jie: Sudden flight January 2012 »
Key words: coverage
Advocacy journalism is not the problem (interview) January 2012 »
Key words: Wang Fengbo, Matthias von Hein, soft power, Adrienne Woltersdorf, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, Jörg M. RudolphZhang Danhong
He who pays the piper January 2012 »
Key words: see comments

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Updates / Related

» Werte und Interessen, Deutsche Welle, Febr 3, 2012
» Redesigned Website, Deutsche Welle, Febr 2, 2012

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