BERLIN – Journalists should be observers, not part of the events they cover, whether they are in a small town in Eastern Europe or in the White House. But as journalists all over the world become targets, many wondered where the point was right to put a pencil and talk – and came to very different conclusions.
In Germany, a group of regional reporters decided that this point came in May, when the far-right Germany (AfD) party announced during a press conference that a journalist with the best-selling tabloid Bild would not be allowed to ask questions during the event. A reporter off the press conference, Michael Sauerbier, raised critical questions during the previous press release about the alleged links of high-ranking AFD officials with right-wing extremist groups.
It was not the first time AFD turned off the reporters, but with the attacks that were built up and rhetoric sharpening, all the journalists in the room immediately agreed what to do. They left the room; the press conference has been canceled.
If any of those present at that time watched exchange tests between President Trump and CNN White House journalist Jim Acosta, they could have experienced some buttocks by May this year.
During the press conference on Wednesday, Acosta asked if Trump "demonized immigrants" by inviting Middle American truckers to "invasion". When White House Attendant tried to take a microphone, Acosta resisted by lifting her arms.
"Excuse me, ma'am," the woman said.
Trump's response was less subtle. "CNN should be ashamed of what you're doing for them, you're a rude, terrible person, you should not work for CNN, you're a very rude person," Trump Acosta said. Trump has been thinking for a long time about the possibility of confiscating credentials from journalists. "Why do we do so much to work with the media when it's corrupted? Take the credentials?" He asked on Twitter this May.
And on Wednesday, the White House looked as if to follow these threats for the first time when it stopped Acostin press's credibility in the unprecedented step.
In other countries where right-wing parties are openly threatened by democratic principles or where journalists have to be afraid of their lives, Acosta is celebrated on Thursday morning. His struggle with the president's reckoning earned him to social media fans in India, for example, where some praised the readiness to take over the chief commander.
One user made a video clip that opposed Acosta's issues with recordings of events in 2015, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted a journalist's vacation event – and they hired him to take selfies. Modi did not hold a press conference where journalists were free to ask questions all the time at the office.
Foreign journalists were not alone in their support for Acosta. During a press conference on Wednesday, Rapporteur Trump called he immediately rushed to the defense of his fellow. But do US correspondents have to lower the way for their foreign counterparts and boycott press releases?
The bar for such an activity was relatively high abroad. In one case, foreign journalists left Israeli Press Conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull last year after the guards ordered a trace stamp for the photographer of the European Press Agency. The incident was later described as "unnecessary and humiliating" by the Foreign Press Party in the country, and the coverage was puzzling the Israeli government.
In the case of the German AFD incident, it seems that the exit also had an impact. Senior party officials have recently held a roundtable with leading German editors, with the apparent aim of fostering more moderate dialogues, although slogans of "false news" have not faded from the street.
AfD and Trump are, of course, difficult to compare. Trump was hired from time to time by the media, and on the other, he was attacked. He threatened to sue, but he did not follow until now. In the meantime, AfD is an opposition party with limited influence.
When former US Secretary of State Sean Spicer dismissed several press organizations from an offline press conference last February but called for conservative publications to join, only a few media have decided to boycott the event. The reasons for the resignation from the boycott of the briefing were varied: some argued that the continuation of management coverage was more important than setting examples. Other, more polarized news showed he was pleased to be his favorite.
By contrast, Germany has a more moderate media landscape, in which far left or right publications and networks have so far gained some tension. German journalists often declare themselves through joint umbrella associations when they fear the freedom of press freedom, regardless of the editorial opinions of their newspapers.
In response to the incident in May, such an association has made a clear directive to its members: "We ask all of our members to attend AfD events if all present journalists have the right to ask questions."
Joanna Slater in New Delhi has contributed to this report. Parts of this post were first published on May 10, 2018.
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