AfD bans German public TV from European right-wing parties’ conference for ‘biased’ reporting

AfD bans German public TV from European right-wing parties’ conference for ‘biased’ reporting
All German public broadcasters have been barred from a conference of the European populist anti-immigration parties by the event hosts from the German right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which said the media did not meet journalistic standards.

Marcus Pretzell, an AfD MEP and the co-organizer of the conference scheduled for January 21, slammed German publicly funded media for their biased reporting as he explained the organizers’ decision to the German dpa news agency.

“The public broadcasters have such biased reporting that they could easily produce their scripted stories without direct access [to the conference], alongside with Compact and Handelsblatt,” he said, mentioning the German Handelsblatt business daily and a right-wing populist Compact journal among the media outlets banned from the event.

Apart from ARD and ZDF, the two major German public broadcasters, the list of “unwanted” media also includes particular reporters from the German der Spiegel and FAZ dailies, which “discredited themselves with their work.”

The barred journalists will not be allowed to attend the conference, which is expected to feature speeches by the AfD co-chair Frauke Petry, French National Front leader Marine le Pen, Geert Wilders, the head of the Dutch Freedom Party, and Matteo Salvini, of Italy’s Northern League. However, all reporters would still be able to attend a press conference following the meeting, according Pretzell.

At the same time, Germany’s dpa news agency has been granted accreditation to the conference along with some foreign media.

The move quickly provoked an angry reaction from the broadcasters. ARD editors-in-chief said in a statement that they “condemn this massive encroachment against the freedom of reporting” and stressed that this decision hurts the interests of the German public because the media “would not be able to inform them about the meeting of the right-wing populist parties.”

They also emphasized they “flatly reject” all accusations of biased reporting about the AfD activities in the past. The ARD also warned that it retains the right to take legal action against the party over the ban.

The ZDF also criticized the move by calling it “an assault on the freedom of the press” and said that it still would cover the event. The German Journalists’ Association (DJV) demanded that the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) political group, which is the formal organizer of the event, grant accreditation to all journalists.

“Parties that take part in the forming of the public political will should not ban journalists from their events,” the DJV head, Frank Ueberall, told German media, threatening the party with a legal claim.

The AfD move also faced criticism from within the party ranks as its speaker, Christian Lueth, criticized the decision.

“We regard a universal or partial ban of media outlets from events of significant political importance as wrong,” he said.

It is not the first time that AfD has decided to bar certain media outlets from its events. In November 2016, the party denied accreditation to its regional congress to particular journalists, accusing them of “biased reporting,” Der Tagesspiegel reports.

The conference organized by the ENF, a group of right-wing parties in the European Parliament, will include the first meeting between Petry and Le Pen, with both women expected to discuss the overlap in their parties' policies, according to Ludovic de Danne, an advisor to Le Pen, who already called the event a "European counter-summit,” as quoted by Le Figaro.

The meeting, which is expected to take place in the West German city of Koblenz, comes at a time when the AfD, which opposes Chancellor Angela Merkel's liberal refugee policy, enjoys ongoing public support. It now enjoys the backing of about 15 percent of voters and is the third most popular party in Germany, according to German media reports.