Lying press (German: Lügenpresse, lit. 'press of lies') is a pejorative political term used largely by German political movements for the printed press and the mass media at large, when it is believed not to have the quest for truth at the heart of its coverage. It can be considered synonymous with the term fake news.
The term Lügenpresse has been used intermittently since the 19th century in political polemics in Germany, by a wide range of groups and movements in a variety of debates and conflicts. Isolated uses can be traced back as far as the Vormärz period. The term gained traction in the March 1848 Revolution when Catholic circles employed it to attack the rising, hostile liberal press. In the Franco-German War (1870–71) and particularly World War I (1914–18) German intellectuals and journalists used the term to denounce what they believed was enemy war propaganda. The Evangelischer Pressedienst made its mission the fight against the "lying press" which it considered to be the "strongest weapon of the enemy". After the war, German-speaking Marxists such as Karl Radek and Alexander Parvus vilified "the bourgeois lying press" as part of their class struggle rhetoric. The Nazis adopted the term for their propaganda against the Jewish, communist, and later the foreign press. During the protests of 1968, left-wing students disparaged the liberal-conservative Axel Springer publishing house, notably its flagship daily Bild, as a "lying press".
21st century usage
In late 2014, the term was repopularised by the far-right political movement Pegida in response to what its protesters felt was a scornful treatment by the mainstream media, as well as biased press reporting on the rising migrant influx and other immigration issues. It was chosen to be the "Un-word of the year" for 2014 by a panel of five linguists and journalists of the Gesellschaft für deutsche Sprache for "wholesale defamation" of the work of the media. President Joachim Gauck condemned the chanting of the slogan as "ahistorical nonsense", maintaining that in contrast to the Nazi and the GDR era the federal German press is not manipulative in character and "covers events mostly in a correct and balanced way".
Alternative for Germany chair Frauke Petry accused the German media of "defamatory" coverage of her party at a party congress at Hanover, but said the party executive would use the term "lying press" sparingly, preferring the milder designation "Pinocchio press". Her fellow party member Björn Höcke criticized Lügenpresse as too sweeping a verdict for the journalistic profession, arguing instead for the alternative, phonetically very similar term 'Lückenpresse' ("gaps press"), which would describe more accurately reporting bias.
German media detractors felt vindicated by the perceived lack of mainstream coverage of the 2016 New Year's Eve sexual assaults in Germany. Most media outlets ignored the mass assaults by North African migrants and only started reporting on them five days later, after a wave of anger on social media made covering them unavoidable. The delay in reporting on the incidents led to accusations that the authorities and the media attempted to ignore or cover up the migrant attacks to avoid criticism against the asylum and migration policy of the Merkel government. Former interior minister Hans-Peter Friedrich (CSU) criticized the media for upholding a "cartel of silence": "There's suspicion that they believe they don't have to report on such assaults, especially involving migrants and foreigners, for fear of unsettling the public." The German press codex forbids mentioning the religion or ethnicity of criminal suspects and offenders unless there is a "factual connection" to the crime.
A 2015 poll by Infratest dimap found one-fifth of Germans using the term in reference to German media, including newspapers, radio and TV, while almost three-fourth do not employ the word. 42 percent have doubts about the media's credibility, whereas 52 percent believe its coverage to be reliable on the whole. According to a representative poll by the Allensbach Institute of the same year, 39 percent of adult Germans think that there is some truth to the criticism of Pegida that the mainstream press is distorting facts and concealing crucial information from the reader; in the new states of Germany this is even believed by 44 percent of the population. Another 2015 survey, by the weekly Die Zeit, found that 50 percent of respondents did not trust the media coverage on the refugee crisis, 56 percent not on the Pegida movement, 63 percent not on the European debt crisis and 66 percent not on the Ukraine conflict.
- See also timeline in "Lying Press? Germans Lose Faith in the Fourth Estate". Spiegel Online. 2016-02-24. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- Wiener Zeitung, 2 September 1835, p. 990; Allgemeine Zeitung, no. 69, 9 March 1840, p. 547
- Hafenbrack, Hans (2004). Geschichte des Evangelischen Pressedienstes. Evangelische Pressearbeit von 1848 bis 1981 (in German). Bielefeld: Luther-Verlag. ISBN 978-3-7858-0488-9.
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- Rohbohm, Hinrich (2015-11-28). "Petry schwört AfD auf "harten Kampf" ein". Junge Freiheit (in German). Retrieved 2015-06-25.
- Höcke, Björn (2016-01-07). "Nicht "Lügenpresse" sondern "Lückenpresse"" (in German). Retrieved 2015-06-25.
- Karnitschnig, Matthew (2016-01-25). "Cologne puts Germany's 'lying press' on defensive". Politico. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
- "Silence on sex crimes will make racism worse". The Local. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- Huggler, Justin (2016-01-06). "'Cover-up' over Cologne sex assaults blamed on migration sensitivities". The Telegraph. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
- "Reports of New Year's Eve sex assaults in Cologne fuel German migrant debate". CNN. 5 January 2016. Retrieved 24 January 2016.
- "Cover-up claim over NYE mass sexual assaults". The Local. Retrieved 5 January 2016.
- "Der Pressekodex. Richtlinie 12.1 – Berichterstattung über Straftaten" (in German). Presserat. Retrieved 11 August 2016.
- "Jeder Fünfte nennt deutsche Medien "Lügenpresse"". Die Welt (in German). 2015-10-31. Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- Köcher, Renate (2015-12-16). "Allensbach-Studie: Mehrheit fühlt sich über Flüchtlinge einseitig informiert". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 2016-08-05.
- Hamann, Götz (2015-06-25). "Wer vertraut uns noch?". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 2016-08-05.
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