From May 3 to 10, 2022, it will once again be “Freedom of Expression Week”. As a joint action of major book and newspaper publishers such as the German Book Trade Association, but also countless bookstores, in “Reporters Without Borders” and “Amnesty International”, a large-scale initiative which deals with the freedom to freely inquire about an opinion and to express it seems self-evident.
How much something that is taken for granted today can be missed in other places is not only known to citizens of the former GDR who do not have memory problems, but also and above all people in Russia who do not conform to the war policy of the Putin government or who criticize the government in autocratic societies. In fact, the squatting whisper, the unspoken phrase, the unpainted sign of demonstration were and still are among the peculiarities of dictatorial times.
With issue 101 (published on April 29), the Leipziger Zeitung began with the first examples of coverage of the various aspects, the personal perspectives of our journalists and insights into their own work. And from May 3, it will continue online at L-IZ.de.
Here is the contribution of René Loch:
Those who regularly report on protests and other right-wing activities are constantly faced with the question of how “objective” journalism should be. Or maybe. Or maybe. The exact meaning of this objectivity depends very much on the point of view.
What I often experience: After a critical report on the AfD or a gathering of “lateral thinkers” where no one bothers with the trivialization of Nazism, anti-Semitic codes and Reich citizenship flags, people are accused of not report “objectively”. Objectively, it would obviously be in the interest of angry readers in these cases to keep silent about the fact that there were Nazi trivializations, anti-Semitic codes and Reich citizenship flags.
It would be objective to repeat what the speakers claim without classification: for example, that we live in a dictatorship as bad as that of the National Socialists and that the “lateral thinkers” of today are the Jews of yesteryear.
But classifying these mental failures is at the heart of journalism. Ideally, we have the expertise or experience to provide a factual framework for claims that lack reality. Our own political beliefs actually play no part in this assertion. “Say what is”, to use the motto of a major news magazine.
There is apparently a simple reason why we are forced to make such classifications and corrections much more frequently during right-wing events than during other events: lying, manipulation and the ruthless rewriting of history are at heart of right-wing ideology.
But you can also ask yourself a completely different question: As a journalist, do you want to remain “objective” during events of this kind? If you want to see it as an event like any other, where the participants relativize the greatest crime in human history – in any form.
I mean no. Journalists are human rights activists and as such a clear position is appropriate: anyone who encounters me as a journalist at a demonstration of ‘lateral thinking’ can expect me report in a balanced way and that I do not distort what is happening and that I always stick to the truth. . On the other hand, you shouldn’t expect me to be biased towards “lateral thinkers”. I don’t much like what they say.
The question of whether objectivity is even possible in journalism goes even further – a classic, so to speak. Journalists are human beings and as such shaped by attitudes, moods and biases. Moreover, we all have limited knowledge. Objectivity, as I understand it, might be achievable by a machine, but not by a human.
Ultimately, however, it is up to all journalists themselves to decide how “objective” they want to be. After all, diversity is also a strength in this respect. There’s just one thing I don’t like: misunderstood objectivity. Anyone who still talks about “corona reviews” after two years is not remaining objective, but is just spreading nonsense. So-called corona critics are many things – pandemic deniers, neo-Nazis, conspiracy supporters, protesters with demarcation issues with the right-wing fringe – but certainly not people who would criticize the corona virus of any way.
“Opinion & Freedom: Objectivity in Journalism” was first published on April 29, 2022 in the current print edition of the Leipziger Zeitung (LZ). Our LZ number 101 can be found in wholesale markets and news outlets, among other places, at these scene retailers.