The Politics of the German Media
As Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice kicks off a European trip in Germany this week, it's a good time to survey the political landscape of the German media, which is largely focused on the continuing uproar over secret CIA counter-terrorism operations in Europe.
Der Spiegel, the popular newsweekly that leans to the political left and specializes in exposés, scored big with its story about the large number of secret CIA flights passing through Germany.
The editors of Die Welt, a conservative newspaper with politics comparable to the Wall Street Journal editorial page, preferred to focus on less on allegations of American wrongdoing than on charges of liberal German hypocrisy. They played up the story of Otto Schily, the former Interior Minister who is now accused of covering up what The Washington Post described on Sunday as "a CIA mistake."
According to The Post, Schily was told in May 2004 that CIA agents held a German citizen in secret captivity for five months before realizing he was not involved in terrorism. Schily served under center-left prime minister Gerhard Schroeder, who was highly critical of the Bush administration. But Schily never revealed the CIA's mistake.
The tabloid Bild, Europe's best-selling newspaper, is reliably right-wing but does not emphasize political coverage. On a day when most other German front pages were dominated by photos of Rice, Bild ran a photo of a couple kissing in front of a Christmas tree.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, often described as Germany's leading newspaper, is classically "liberal" in the European sense, meaning supportive of free markets and skeptical of socialism. Its editorial stance leans towards Germany's Free Democrat party. The FAZ editors did not so much support the U.S.-led war in Iraq as oppose its critics.
"How are terrorists meant to be treated? Like common criminals, prisoners of war or something else?" Der Tagesspiegel asked. The Berlin newspaper said Europe should weigh the options carefully and reconsider its stance of moral superiority. "Morals are one thing, fighting terrorism another. Is the Geneva Convention our only guideline when attacks are to be prevented? The US government has deserved to be criticized, but to climb the high horse and benefit from these methods is hypocritical."
Unfortunately for linguistically challenged Americans, virtually all of these sites are published in German only. English-only readers interested in news from Germany have to rely on Spiegel Online and the very fine English-language site of Deutsche Welle, the German public broadcast network.
This afternoon: What the European right is saying.
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