German broadcaster under fire over coverage of stabbing of teen girl with refugee as suspect

German broadcaster under fire over coverage of stabbing of teen girl with refugee as suspect
German public broadcaster ARD is under fire online for its coverage of a crime by a refugee suspect. The channel would not immediately report last week’s fatal stabbing of a teen girl in the town of Kandel.

The stabbing was an apparent crime of passion. A refugee from Afghanistan is suspected of killing his German ex-girlfriend after a bad breakup. The crime happened two weeks after the girl’s family complained to the police about the Afghan, who, they said, threatened and harassed her online and on the phone after she ended the relationship.

The story received nationwide coverage in Germany, but some outlets seemed reluctant to report it. In particular, public service broadcaster ARD initially refused to report the crime after the news broke on Thursday.

Marcus Bornheim, a deputy editor-in-chief for ARD’s newsroom, said the story was not promptly reported on the TV news program Tagesschau because it was about a crime of passion that involved minors. In a Facebook post, he denied claims that the broadcaster was trying to somehow suppress the story, stressing that the regional branch of ARD, the SWR Fernsehen, did report the story. He later added that the 8pm news broadcast would have a short report on the crime.

The explanation did not satisfy many critics who accuse ARD of having a policy of downplaying stories that depict refugees in a negative way. “Just imagine if the story was about a 15-year-old girl killing a 15 (30) year old Afghan refugee. There would be special programs on ARD, ZDF, talk shows!” tweeted Udo Hemmelgarn, a politician from the anti-immigrant right-wing Alternative for German (AfD) party, linking to a Die Welt report on ARD’s muted response to the stabbing.

Both the Afghan and the victim were reportedly 15, but the suspect’s age may be different. The figure is based on what he told the authorities when he entered Germany irregularly in 2016 as an unaccompanied minor. The German authorities say as many as 43 percent of such refugees are actually adults who provide false information on their age.

READ MORE: 43% of unaccompanied ‘underage’ migrants in Germany turn out to be adults – report

Perhaps the most notorious false minor case in Germany is that of Hussein Khavari, a refugee from Afghanistan who is currently standing trial for the rape and murder of 19-year-old medical student Maria Ladenburger in October 2016. Khavari claimed to be 17 at the time, but forensic evidence says he is older and may be over 30. The age may affect the outcome of the trial, as an adult criminal may be sentenced to a harsher punishment in Germany – life imprisonment in case of Khavari.

Incidentally, in 2016, ARD was accused of trying to suppress the story of that incident, which happened in Freiburg. The broadcaster said at the time that it did not report on individual crime cases and focused on “events of social, national and international relevance.”