German broadcaster sorry for slow reporting on mob assaults

Published: January 6, 2016
Picture taken on January 1, 2016, shows police arresting a man as people gather in front of the main railway station in Cologne, western Germany. PHOTO: AFP

Picture taken on January 1, 2016, shows police arresting a man as people gather in front of the main railway station in Cologne, western Germany. PHOTO: AFP

BERLIN: German public broadcaster ZDF has apologised for delays in reporting on a wave of sexual assaults blamed on men of Arab appearance amid accusations Wednesday of media self-censorship of the inflammatory issue.

The rash of attacks and thefts in a New Year’s Eve crowd in the western city of Cologne was only widely covered by national media early this week, after police had initially reported no major incidents.

News editors of ZDF’s flagship “heute” (today) evening news programme apologised on social media for not reporting on the incidents at least in its Monday evening bulletin, four days after the attacks.

German police investigating mass sexual assaults during New Year’s Eve

“The news situation was clear enough. It was a mistake of the 7pm ‘heute’ show not to at least report the incidents,” wrote deputy chief editor Elmar Thevessen on the show’s Facebook page.

Editors had decided to postpone the news segment to Tuesday, the day Cologne’s city hall and police held a crisis meeting on the attacks, he wrote, admitting this was “a clear misjudgement”.

As the assaults have come to dominate German mainstream media, more women have come forward in Cologne and other cities about being groped and attacked on New Year’s Eve.

The number of criminal complaints in Cologne topped 100 by Wednesday.

On social media, furious right-wing commentators have blamed the attacks on Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government and its welcome to asylum seekers, 1.1 million of whom arrived last year.

The right-wing populist Alternative for Germany party seized on the attacks as “the appalling consequences of catastrophic asylum and migration policies”.

A media industry website said that the ugly incidents — and the sluggish official and media response — played into the hands of groups such as the Islamophobic PEGIDA street movement, which claims Germany’s politicians and media are colluding to mislead the public about immigration policy.

“Despite the world’s most expensive public broadcaster, countless social media reactions and online newsrooms … it took four long days before national media comprehensively reported on the incidents,” said a commentary on the Meedia service.

“The initial slowness is now being used in some circles to back their claims about the ‘lying press’.”

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Ilyas
    Jan 7, 2016 - 7:45AM

    This is terrible and so sad to read. I sincerely pray and hope that the victims get justice and that the perpetrators were not recent refugees. The Germans are a progressive and liberal lot and I am sure that the actions of a few will not impact the love and affection with which they have welcomed refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Recommend

  • Rob
    Jan 7, 2016 - 11:22AM

    It’s worse if they are not recent refugees. It means that they were refugees or immigrants from the past who did not integrate well, which foreshadows how exacerbated the problem will become now that Germany has taken even higher numbers than usual. If you think that this event has not altered people’s perceptions of the refugees, then you are being naive.Recommend

  • SuperNeo
    Jan 7, 2016 - 12:02PM

    One wrong decision by German chancellor and whole country is suffering. still they have time plug the unwanted open gaps, says no others problems, soon they will become very big problem for citizens.Recommend

  • Ashton
    Jan 7, 2016 - 3:24PM

    Guess they were to busy whining about how polish government wants to censor polish media and that poland should be kicked out of eu for that.Recommend

  • Carry a Gun
    Jan 7, 2016 - 4:49PM

    and shoot to kill.

    Merkel and everyone who voted to let them in should be charged as accessories for facilitating rape and murder.Recommend

  • Tom Jones
    Jan 7, 2016 - 7:49PM

    Merkel should be voted out. She won’t be. The PC crowd is running Germany. Germany as we know it is already lost.Recommend

  • genesis
    Jan 7, 2016 - 8:15PM

    It has impacted and now there are counter moves against refugees,No wonder Central Europe was against refugees from day one and their stand seem proved..that Arabs are not compatible wit modern humane values.Recommend

  • cautious
    Jan 7, 2016 - 8:22PM

    reporting on a wave of sexual assaults blamed on men of Arab appearance

    Not surprised that newsmen were slow to report – it obviously raises questions on the wisdom of Merkel’s open door immigration policy. Germany should do everything in it’s power to round up every one who participated and put them in jail – and if they are immigrants then send them back (after they serve their jail sentence).Recommend

  • Raw is War
    Jan 7, 2016 - 9:16PM

    aka Political correctness.Recommend

  • stevenson
    Jan 7, 2016 - 9:53PM

    @Ilyas: Europeans in general and Germans especially are very naive when they can’t see that the hordes of refugees coming from Arab countries, Afghanistan, Iran and Somalia have different values and ideas. Integration of so many refugees is not going to be easy. Why on earth should any country have to welcome people who jump the line to become refugees? We all know that the refugees pay thousands of dollars to human smugglers to cross borders illegally before getting to Europe to claim persecution and asylum. The people who have thousands of dollars to pay human smugglers are often rich in Afghanistan or Somalia but they prefer to go to Europe illegally. The real refugees are still stuck because they don’t have money. Why doesn’t the world help them where they live or in the safe camps for refugees? It doesn’t surprise me that thousands of Arab refugees would go on a wild sex rampage in Germany because they have not been made to understand different cultures, values and laws. After all they were rewarded by given refugee status after smuggling and breaking laws.Recommend

  • Asian
    Jan 8, 2016 - 10:23AM

    The price for taking Muslim refugees is yet to be paid by EU. It will be cataclysmic. Recommend

  • ajeet
    Jan 8, 2016 - 11:04AM

    Merkel will now come to know that there are no good or bad snakes, and all snakes bite.Recommend

  • abhi
    Jan 8, 2016 - 8:38PM

    So now Germany is also praying price for useless policy of Chancelor. But she became famous and probably thats what she wanted.Recommend

  • Adam
    Jan 9, 2016 - 11:03AM

    It was not a case of slow reporting, it was an attempt at cover-up. The German media are always following the government line. There is no freedom in German media, it is hijacked by political correctness and reasons of the German state as understood in Berlin. The EU should investigate this cover-up.Recommend

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