Deutsche Welle still cherishes the legacy of Cold War Mentality

11:35, May 21, 2011      

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By Li Hongmei, Zhang Hongyu, People’s Daily Online

Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) recently fired another four editorial staff of Chinese origin working for the China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle (DW’s Chinese Department), for what it claims were financial reasons, but in actuality, as a result of expelling “dissidents” with “Communist background”. The four dismissed Chinese editors have probably fallen victim to DW’s intense censorship and deep-seated prejudice.

The company's decision has offended the laid-off editors, who say DW's refusal to renew their contracts is because the four represent a different voice from that of the ideologically oriented China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle. The four: Wang Fengbo, Zhu Hong, Li Qi and Wang Xueding, have published an open letter with their signature, asking the company to rescind its decision. In the open letter they also expressed their view that China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle has lost its credibility by adhering to biased reporting against China.

The employment dispute involving the four editors working for DW acts as a reminder of the Zhang Danhong incident.

Zhang, 42, was born in Beijing, studied German in Peking University and in Cologne, Germany. She became an editor of DW-Radio's Chinese program in 1990 and was promoted deputy editorial director of the program in 2004.

Four days before the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Zhang Danhong, an editor with the broadcaster's Chinese program, reportedly said that "The Communist Party of China has more than any political force in the world implemented Article 3 of the Declaration of Human Rights", referring to the Chinese authorities pulling more than 400 million people out of poverty.

Similarly, in a TV talk show in late July of the year, Zhang reportedly said the Chinese government had done a lot to protect local culture in Tibet and criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel for sapping relations with Beijing.

The German media reacted strongly to Zhang's remarks. On Aug 11, German magazine Focus attacked Zhang as someone who was "courting" China's Communist Party. On Aug 20, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper quoted parliamentary representative Dieter Wiefelsputz as saying that Zhang's performance was a "catastrophe". Two days later, the same newspaper confirmed Zhang's suspension from work.

Thereafter, Deutsche Welle has been eagerly appeasing overseas Chinese dissidents. DW hired a disputed Sinologist based in Germany, whose job is to sniff out all reports with even the slightest hint of friendliness toward China.

After two and a half years on his throne of censorship he has amassed venomous remarks on not only China-friendly reports but also the editors working at the China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle and he even clamors for recognizing Taiwan as an "independent country".

What the Sinologist and DW have said and done underlines their hostility toward China and clearly deviates from Germany's persistent stance on the "one-China" principle.

For a long time, Deutsche Welle has been lambasting China and the Communist Party of China in its anti-China reporting, which, it claims, arises from the rigorous journalistic censorship imposed by the Chinese government.

It is really sad for a news organization to lose its dignity and objectivity and choose to publish or broadcast only the negative side of a particular country or even tarnish it with lies.

What Germany's international broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW) has done in recent years indicates that it is going in that direction.

Even though it is not appropriate to call for Western media to demonstrate a pro-China stance, it is appropriate to say they need to be as balanced and objective as they claim to be. Some of them need to relinquish their Cold War mentality and look at China not as an enemy but, at least, as a sovereign nation.

For example, when covering issues related to China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Western media, such as Deutsche Welle, should never trample on China’s sovereignty describing Tibet to be an independent country, in that it is indisputably an inalienable part of China.

Behind the anti-China biased reporting in the Western media is the broader fear that China poses a threat to the West. With that preconception, some Western media believe that they need to undermine China and seek to bring about the collapse of this socialist country.

This is absurd, as what DW has been up to in the past few years is the true example of journalistic censorship. As the laid-off reporters have said, there is perhaps no better phrase than journalistic censorship to define the DW's ideology.

Germany should have long forgone the Cold War mentality and been free from such censorship. But some German media nowadays still cling to the Cold War mentality. As a media source of a democratic country that attaches great value to freedom of speech and journalistic freedom, Deutsche Welle dismissed Zhang Danhong for her factual and positive remarks on China's development prior to the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. And now, four more Chinese staff have been laid off due to their objections to the company's journalistic censorship. People cannot help but wonder how much further such a news organization can go on its anti-China path.

Now four more overseas Chinese staff members working for China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle have been denied the opportunity to renew their contract with Deutsche Welle for what they say are political reasons.

In the open letter, they said----

“Deutsche Welle has exercised censorship on employees’ thoughts since the outbreak of the “Media War on China” in 2008. All the editors working with China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle fell victims of suspicion and were monitored or sidelined as a result. Moreover it has adjusted the criteria for coverage about China, giving political and ideological factors more prominent roles. Based on this, it reviewed articles on a regular base to decide whether the articles were “pro communist” or not and if they were eligible for publishing.

We worked with China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle for many years. At the end of 2010, two of us left Deutsche Welle as it refused to extend the employment contracts with them. For the same reason, the other two left shortly after. Since January 2011, Deutsche Welle significantly reduced cooperation with another one of us, a freelancer.

Deutsche Welle attributed the reason for not extending employment contracts with us to budget cut, which was soon proved to be fabricated. Later on, Deutsche Welle gave other reasons. Subsequently, a group of young and inexperienced new recruits filled the vacancies we left.

We believe their reasons cannot justify our dismissal, instead, we are the victims of the aftermath of the so-called “Media War on China" that broke out before the opening of the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008.”

What matters more about the incident is not whether the four DW editors of the Chinese origin were denied the opportunity to extend their labor contract with DW for the reasons they have claimed, but the China-Redaktion der Deutsche Welle has certainly given the impression that its reporting of China in recent years has been ideologically oriented, instead of acting on the principles of journalism.

If a news organization turns away from its obligation to the truth, but chooses to twist facts based on ideological differences, their coverage would turn out to be awfully absurd.

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