Amid reports by German journalists stating that their nation's media has become a "government outlet which suppresses critical views", German media's open dislike for US President Donald Trump has reached a new level of invective, with the Stern weekly explicitly comparing the US President to Adolf Hitler in a photo-montage published on yesterday's cover portraying Trump enwrapped in a US flag while brandishing a Nazi salute. The headline is a play on words turning Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf (My Struggle) to "Sein Kampf" - His Struggle.
The lead article refers to President Trump's alleged ties with the neo-Nazi right in the United States following the events in Charlottesville.The subtitle reads, "Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, Racism - How Trump spreads hatred in the United States."
The German weekly's cover has already aroused strong criticism, especially among American conservatives.In social networks, too, criticism of the "pointlessness" of the title page and the trivialization of Hitler's crimes is excoriated:"Can you not criticize Trump without comparing him to Hitler?" And "Who is spreading hatred here?" are representative of responses by German journalists and various other organizations.
Disturbing as one magazine's invective may be, reports that German media as a whole has been co-opted to serve as a docile conduit for government disinformation raises questions as to the true origin of Stern's attack on the President.
Dutch media-website TPO Online published an interview with Dutch-German reporter Claudia Zimmermann, reported The Old Continent. As a reporter who had worked for the German Public Broadcaster WDR for 24 years, she was asked about the manner in which the refugee crisis and New Year’s Eve in Cologne were reported. In the broadcast, she was asked whether she was expected to report on migrants and refugees in a certain way.
Zimmermann answered, "Yes, we are of course, we are a public broadcaster, which means that we try, in every case, try to be positive in approaching the topic. In the beginning when Merkel’s Welcome culture was, very, well, good, then our stories were of course very positive, while at present it’s tilted a bit, so now there are more and more critical voices, also from the Public Broadcasters and of course from politics ... We are a Public Broadcasting company, which means there are multiple commissions, that regulate what our program looks like. And we are more or less appointed to do so in a more or less pro-government way."
The Old Continent reports that WDR responded by denying the Zimmermann's ‘allegations’ against them, and allegedly forced her to sign an apology that reads: “I have talked nonsense on this program. Under pressure from the fact that the talk-show was live on air, I have sold a bunch of rubbish. This is very painful for me. Because never in my time as a freelance journalist have I been asked to report tendentiously or write towards a specific outcome.“
Zimmermann now reportedly claims that she never made these allegations and was forced to sign the apology, after which she has received almost no new work. She says that the entire structure of the German Public Broadcasting companies is geared towards censoring undesirable news.
For example, after Zimmermann witnessed girls being harassed in the streets, and learned that this was a daily occurrence, she “pitched it as a theme for WDR, but my colleagues said: ’we won’t do it, because that helps Pegida.’ That was a WDR editor. And there were similar situations. At the watercooler, where colleagues talked to each other they said ‘my God, is all that happening?’, but it was never reported on."
Zimmermann is also quoted by Old Continent as explicitly referring to German media Trump coverage policy: “When I meet a former colleague in the street they tell me ‘I thought it’s very good that you said what you did, but I am really not allowed to talk to you.’ … Editors go to seminars in close-knit groups, only certain reporters are sent to Cologne, working closely together with a chief editorial staff. That’s why there are so few critical articles. … Comment and opinions are taken for news.
"I can see that with Trump. Even if you’re not a Trump fan, a journalist is meant to report on the news, as neutrally as possible, and the population makes its own picture. And the AfD is hushed up. It is just a machine to make opinions.“