Transgender man dies after assault at Pride, more attacks against journalists
German court finds spying operations on activists by British services unlawful
On 10th October 2022, British undercover officer Mark Kennedy's spying activities were declared “objectively illegal” by the court of the German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The British agent infiltrated dozens of political groups across at least 14 countries and had spent seven years spying on environmental and left-wing activists until he was unmasked in 2010. During his mission, Kennedy became friends with Jason Kirkpatrik, an environmental activist who helped disclose the case and collaborated with German authorities to establish the truth. Due to the fact that the evidence was lost, the parties – Kirkpatrik and the interior ministry of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern - agreed to settle the case. However, the judge in the case informed the participants that Kennedy's mission was illegal. Kirkpatrik still celebrates the outcome of the case:
“with this declaration that spying of Mark Kennedy was illegal in Germany, it is clear that the state can no longer target activists as it did. Climate activists today will benefit from this fight against government interference.”
This decision highlights how European police have collaborated to infiltrate political groups as part of an extensive surveillance operation. In total, Kennedy worked for three German states in his visits from 2004 and 2009. Kennedy's case, together with a Guardian and activists’ investigation, revealed that since 1968, British police had sent at least 139 undercover officers to spy on more than 1,000 political groups.
Transgender man dies after homo-transphobic attack at Pride parade
On 2nd September 2022, Malte C, a 25-year-old transgender man, died after being in a coma for six days as a result of an attack that occurred during the LGBTQI+ Pride event in the city of Münster. Malte C had intervened in defence of a group of women being threatened and insulted with homophobic slurs by a man during the Pride festival. The aggressor punched Malte C in the face, which caused him to fall, hit his head on the ground and never regain consciousness. A suspect was arrested on the basis of images and footage provided by witnesses.
The reaction of the community, as well as of several political figures, was of shock and strong condemnation. The city of Münster announced that all public buildings will fly their flags at half-staff and a memorial ceremony was organised on the evening of his death. The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD) expressed their concerns over the brutal attack and called on authorities to classify the attack as a hate crime. The city’s mayor, Markus Lewe, said that the killing of Malte C “shows that we still have more to do to push for equality and acceptance for people of different sexual orientations.”
President warns about threat while commemorating riot anniversary
Big commemorations took place in the city of Rostock on 25th August 2022 for the 30th anniversary of the most shocking episode of racist violence to occur in Germany after the Nazi period. German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned about the risk of hatred and xenophobic violence that is still present in German society and that risk being revitalised by the current cost-of-living crisis and socio-political tensions.
The events of Rostock 1992 consisted of attacks perpetrated by a marauding group who threw stones and petrol bombs at a housing block for Vietnamese asylum seekers while being applauded by local citizens supporting the violence. The people living in the targeted houses managed to escape and no one got hurt, although the violence lasted over three days as a result of the general inaction of the police, and the psychological scars are still very much present in the life of the survivors.
As a confirmation of the worries expressed by President Steinmeier, during the ceremony, a 13-year-old gave the Hitler salute behind a journalist while on camera. The suspect has been identified by the police.
Cases of abuse of journalists by AfD’s regional leader and supporters
On 5th September, Oliver Kirchner, the leader of the AfD political group in the Saxony-Anhalt state parliament, gave details of two reporters’ professional life during a speech to thousands of protesters gathered in Magdeburg’s cathedral square to demonstrate against the rise in energy prices. Kirchner attacked the journalists from the regional public broadcaster Mitteldeutscher Rundfunk (MDR) claiming that since the two had been critical of AfD, they could not be considered neutral. The public broadcaster's Board of Directors published an open letter following the events denouncing Kirchner’s speech as “undemocratic” and instigating hatred against single journalists. The German Association of Journalists (DJV) echoed the reaction of MDR.
A few days later, on 8th September 2022, Oliver Kirchner showed a picture of the journalists, repeated his attacks and called their reporting “tendentious" during a regional parliamentary session in which he was called to comment on his speech in Magdeburg.
Earlier that month, on 3rd September 2022, a journalist working for Democratia Berlin, an independent media outlet focusing on the extreme right, populist and anti-democratic movements around the capital, was attacked during an AfD rally in Dresden Schlossplatz. A participant in the demonstration pushed aside the journalist's camera and threatened to throw beer at him.
#md0709 #Magdeburg Behinderung von Pressearbeit. Bei einer Debatte im #ltsa zur Zukunft des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks warf der AfD-Fraktionschef #OliverKirchner zwei MDR-Journalisten erneut tendenziöse Berichterstattung vor. Der Politiker hatte die Journalisten 1/5— Jörg Reichel (dju Berlin-Brandenburg) (@ver_jorg) September 19, 2022
Far-right attacks against journalists
On 23rd August 2022 during a press conference by the Bavarian Health minister Klaus Holetschek on a campaign for COVID-19 booster vaccination, two journalists were attacked by a right-wing anti-COVID-19 extremist. The man first tried to assault the Bavarian Health minister by rushing towards him and then tried to reach and grab the camera of photojournalist Sachelle Babbar, who had previously intervened to shield the minister. A police officer present at the scene protected Babbar and pushed the man away. The man returned to the scene some time later and ambushed journalist of Bavarian public broadcaster BR, punching him repeatedly in the head. Earlier he had insulted and threatened the press representatives, calling them "traitors to the people and vaccine terrorists." The man was arrested and charged with assault, disturbing the public order, threatening and insulting. The broadcaster BR expressed concern over the climate of violence and hostility against journalists that is spreading in the country.
Another incident of aggression against journalists by right-wing extremists took place on 2nd September in Neukirch. Journalist Moritz Gathmann and a photographer from print magazine Cicero were attacked, insulted and threatened by neo-Nazi militants during a conference on increasing energy prices organised by the "Bautzner Frieden" association.
On 10th October 2022, freelance journalist Kili Weber, who works specifically on the Querdenken and far-right movements, was verbally abused while covering a right-wing demonstration in Wurzen, Saxony. The aggression forced the journalist to stop covering the event.
19:55 Für mich ging es jetzt weiter nach Leipzig. Hier marschiert heute auch Querdenken auf.— Kili Weber (@WeberKili) October 10, 2022
Am Transpi läuft Sandra Gabriel von den "Freie Linke Halle". Unter den TN sind viele gewaltbereite Nazis. Die Demo passiert soeben die Runde Ecke#le1010 #Leipzig #Querdenken #Quergida pic.twitter.com/F927I8aQY9
Mayor of Bad Lobenstein attacks journalist on duty
On 20th August 2022, the mayor of Bad Lobenstein, Thomas Weigelt, attacked journalist Peter Hagen working for Ostthüringer Zeitung (OTZ) who was filming his conversation with a guest at a bar table. The mayor grabbed Weigelt's camera, dropped it and pushed the journalist to the ground. The aggression resulted in physical harm to the journalist and damage to his equipment. A criminal complaint against the mayor was filed and his resignation demanded by several people.
Several physical attacks on journalists
Several attacks on journalists and their equipment while on duty were reported:
- On 7th September 2022 a Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) film crew was attacked by a railroad crossing guard while filming a report in Rastede, Germany.
- On 25th September 2022 the equipment of freelance journalist Celestine Hassenfratz was damaged by an activist during a radical feminist protest organised by the group "For Our Sisters". The journalist reported that police did not intervene.
- On 26th September 2022 a police officer from Polizei Sachsen hit the equipment of a journalist working for Vue Critique during a Fridays for Future march in Dresden.
- On 8th October 2022, freelance journalist Armilla Brandt was physically attacked, with protesters hurling sexualised threats at her, during a demonstration against the rise of energy and food prices organised by AfD.
Pro-Russian propaganda spreads across Germany, report reveals
A report published by Meta on 27th September 2022 highlights that a disinformation campaign aimed at spreading pro-Russian propaganda has been taking place in Europe in the past year. This campaign consists of replicating existing information websites, with slightly different addresses, to disseminate fake news that promotes the Kremlin's invasion of Ukraine. The media outlet t-online revealed in an article that 30 newly registered Internet addresses had been found in Germany, supposedly leading to eight media outlets such as t-online, Spiegel, FAZ, Welt, Bild or to Neues Deutschland websites, among others.
"Imitating websites and spreading fake news and propaganda via apparently reputable media outlets whose name has been misused is something that has not yet existed in this form in Germany," said Felix Kartte, head of Reset, an NGO that campaigns for the regulation of tech companies.
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