Assaults against journalist can be divided into 3 categories: assaults due to fear and anger over perceived media bias, verbal assaults against journalists, and physical assaults. In our previous article, we identified these types of attacks in Israel and demonstrated how they take place in practice. In this article, we turn to Germany and focus on the physical dimension where journalists are violently attacked by citizens.
Previous research has argued that journalists are more exposed to physical harm when the government in the country is unstable. Our findings show cases consistent with this line of research. The toughest year for journalists so far was 2020. The federal government in Germany released official data about attacks against media workers that year which documented 252 incidents, of which 22 incidents were physical injuries, 33 were property damage, 4 were case of arson, and many other threats to the lives of journalists.
We chose to focus on the extreme right group in Germany, whose actions confirm and illustrate the overall trend.
Most of the attacks (77%) come from the extreme right-wing faction in the country, mostly in the east of the country. This can be linked to the demographics, as there are more extreme right-wingers in East Germany, and especially in Saxony. It is there that cases of violence are rising due to substantial opposition to government decisions regarding Corona restrictions. Due to the low vaccination rates in this area, the German government recently decided to impose sanctions on the unvaccinated, creating a resentment that causes demonstrations and later violence against journalists.
In this context, a journalist recounted how she was attacked and felt threatened in covering a demonstration against the corona policy. This phenomenon causes a great deal of frustration and despair among journalists, who say they feel like scapegoats. In addition, reporters from the public media feel even more vulnerable to attacks due to a sentiment that they represent the state’s policy when it comes to the corona virus.
According to Freedom House, such attacks were common in 2020, especially against journalists who reported on Querdenken ("lateral thinking"), the demonstrations against COVID-19 restrictions in Germany. Reporters covering anti-vaccine demonstrations and closure policies in Corona faced many difficulties trying to report those demonstrations.
Lastly, another ground for physical assault is the pro-Israel versus pro-Palestine groups in Germany, that demonstrated in Berlin during Operation Guardian of the Walls ("Shomer Chomot"). In May 2021, during demonstrations in Berlin, many reporters were attacked by protestors who beat them, threw building blocks, and even threw explosives at them. One individual who got seriously injured was an Israeli reporter named Antonia Yamin, a reporter for the "Kan 11" broadcasting corporation. Yamin came to cover the demonstration, spoke in Hebrew, and was attacked by the pro-Palestinian demonstrators with explosives and called antisemitic chants towards her and the camera crew.
What we have seen so far is that physical attacks on journalists are common in Germany and have intensified over recent years. Journalists feel less protected to cover what is happening out of genuine concern for their lives. Like Israel, it seems that physical violence against German reporters increases when there is a crisis that undermines the security of citizens. Compared to Israel, most cases of violence occur spontaneously around public demonstrations that become radical.