BERLIN: It would be supposed that journalists are observers and non-stakeholders in the events they cover, no matter if they are working in a small town in Eastern Europe or in the White House. But as journalists around the world have increasingly become targets, many of them wondered at what point it was justified to put the pen and talk and reached very different conclusions.
In Germany, a group of regional journalists decided that this point had arrived in May, when the party of Alternativa a la derecha de Alemania (AfD) announced during a press conference that a journalist with Top-seller Bild could not ask questions during the event. The journalist excluded from the press release, Michael Sauerbier, asked for critical questions during a press event prior to the alleged links of a senior official to an extremist right group.
It was not the first time that journalists were excluded by AfD, but with mounting attacks and rhetorical tuning, all the journalists in the room agreed immediately on what to do. They left the room; the press conference was canceled.
If one of those present at that time was watching the likely exchange between President Trump and journalist Jim Acosta of the CNN White House on Wednesday, he might have had some flashbacks for that day in May.
During the press conference in mid-Wednesday, Acosta asked if Trump "demonized immigrants" calling a caravan of Central American immigrants "an invasion." When a White House inmate tried to recover the microphone, Acosta resisted lifting his arm.
"Forgive me, madam," she told the woman.
Trump's response was less subtle. "CNN should be embarrassed by yourself by working for them. You are a rude and horrible person. You should not work for CNN. You are a very rough person," said Trump a Acosta. Trump has already considered the possibility of taking credentials from journalists. "Why do we work so hard to work with the media when it is corrupt? Remove credentials?", Asked on Twitter this May.
And on Wednesday, the White House seemed to follow the threats for the first time, when Acosta's press accreditations were suspended in an unprecedented movement.
In other nations where extreme right-wing parties openly threaten democratic principles or where journalists have to be scared for their lives, Acosta was held on Thursday mornings. His challenged presidential fight has won fans in social media in India, for example, where some have praised their willingness to take over the commander in chief.
A user created a video clip that contrasted with Acosta's questions with material from an event in 2015, when Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi hosted a holiday event for journalists and helped him to take his skills. Modi did not hold a press conference where journalists could ask questions for free during all time in office.
Foreign journalists were not just in support of Acosta. During the news on Wednesday the news, journalist Trump summoned immediately immediately to defend his colleague. But the American correspondents go by the way of their foreign colleagues and the boycotting briefings?
The bar for such action has been relatively high abroad. In a first case, foreign journalists left an Israeli press conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his Australian counterpart, Malcolm Turnbull, last year after the guards ordered a photo shoot of a photographer from the European Press Agency. The incident was later described as "unnecessary and humiliating" by the Foreign Press Association of the country, and the country's coverage was embarrassed by the Israeli government.
In the case of the AfD German incident, the march also seems to have an impact. The party officials recently organized a round table with the main German publishers, with the intention expressed to encourage a more moderate dialogue, although the slogans of "false news" have not slipped off the streets.
AfD and Trump are, of course, barely comparable. Trump, sometimes, was committed to the media and, at other times, attacked them. It threatened to sue outlets but has not followed so far. The AfD, meanwhile, is an opposition party with little influence.
When the former US press secretary Sean Spicer, excluded several news organizations from a news conference outside of the chamber last February, but invited conservative publications to join, only a few media decided to boycott the event. The reasons to refrain from boycotting the information were diverse: some argued that continuing to cover the administration was more important than giving an example. Other more polarized news seemed favorable.
In contrast, Germany has a more moderate media landscape, where publications and networks of the extreme left or right have gained little traction. German journalists often issue declarations through joint partnerships when they fear press freedom violations, regardless of the advertising positions of their newspapers.
In response to the May incident, one such association issued a clear directive for its members: "We ask all our members only to attend AfD events if all assistant journalists have the right to ask questions."
Joanna Slater in New Delhi contributed to this report. Parts of this publication were published for the first time on May 10, 2018.
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