A public German broadcaster declined to cover the manhunt for a migrant police believe murdered a doctor despite the fact that the story was covered by international news.
Tagesschau, which is taxpayer-funded, claimed the story “was of no national or international importance," although Deutsche Welle, another public outlet, said the seemingly-unprovoked murder occurred in a town of only 60,000 now considered a "crime hotspot."
"Violence in medical practices has occurred several times in Germany in recent years," reported Deutsche Welle, highlighting the national importance. "In 2016 a pensioner shot an orthodontist in a Berlin clinic."
"And in 2015, a 44-year-old man killed his psychiatrist with eight shots in a Saarbrücken practice."
The decision to not cover the story was so controversial that Tagesschau’s editor-in-chief, Dr. Kai Gniffke, was forced to respond - but his response only fueled further debate given that the blog entry had at least 145 comments.
He wrote in part (and you can read his full statement here):
In the news, we report on things of social, national or international relevance. Things that are important to the majority of the approximately 83 million Germans. We can not report every murder case. I think that most of our critics would go along with it. Where opinions differ, the question is whether we should report if the suspect is an asylum seeker. In my view, we should do that when asylum seekers are disproportionately involved in homicides. That's not the case, as far as we can research it. That's why we decided against reporting.
While some applauded Gniffke’s decision, the comment section was largely critical of Tagesschau.
In particular, critics said Gniffke’s response illustrated that Tagesschau was more concerned with filtering information than providing neutral coverage.
“Your reasoning does not convince me,” wrote one critic. “Even the detail shows that you were aware of what you are doing by failing to report.”
“Of course every journalist has the right to represent a political opinion, but first and foremost, the reader expects neutral coverage.”
“And unfortunately, over the past few years, I have been experiencing again and again that public-law institutions are trying to avoid important news that concerns politically-explosive issues,” he added. “There is a growing danger of at least censorship.”
Others pointed out that Tagesschau stood alone in its decision to not report on the murder, while international bureaus like the Associated Press covered the news.
The murder on Aug. 16 occurred at the doctor's own office when, according to police, a 26-year-old man allegedly entered without an appointment and attacked the doctor and an assistant.
"He then fled the scene, prompting a manhunt involving more than 20 police cars, helicopters and a canine unit, and was soon caught," reported Deutsche Welle. "Police identified the suspect as a man from Somalia."
"They said he left the knife behind at the scene."
(Photo: Sebastian Willnow / dpa / AFP)