Good journalistic duty includes checking, comparing and weighing up sources, consulting experts and primarily being committed to objectivity. We have already experienced two caesuras in reporting. The first arose from social media, which are not required to first check sources, seek second votes, and be responsible with information.
We’ve gotten used to it. The second caesura brought us the corona pandemic. Media were discredited, denigrated. Coming to terms with that certainly includes a bit of self-criticism, because the diversity of opinion has clearly suffered.
But what has been going on around the world since last Friday is a single catastrophe for freedom of expression. Russian President Putin is threatening media representatives with 15 years in prison if they carry out their journalistic work and, in his view, possibly publish “false information” about the Russian armed forces. This is the sharpest form of caesura. This censorship not only affects Russian journalists, it also affects all foreign media.
Exactly where journalists from all over the world should be now, they are not allowed to tackle the most burning issues without risking going to jail for it. The ones, that is, the critical Russian broadcasters and Deutsche Welle, were denied the opportunity to spread reports. The others, from ARD to ZDF and BBC to CNN, will initially stop reporting.
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>>> Also read: Combat Room Telegram – How Russians and Ukrainians wage their propaganda war
One thing is clear for the media companies: They must and want to protect their employees. The legal uncertainty for them could not be greater. This can be understood as anticipatory obedience or as a protest. The open question: Who harms what more? One thing is certain: the search for the truth will fall by the wayside.
But how should things continue now? Relying on social media is not a good idea, even if they currently make some information – with the addition of unverified – possible in the first place. The most important step must therefore be for journalists to retain the contacts they have made on the ground over the years. You must ask the citizens for help without endangering them. That’s a big challenge.
But it is currently the only way to be able to collect any information at all. If our broadcasters, newspapers and digital channels would only quote the Russian statements, we would have given up the search for the truth once and for all.
More: The sworn community – Germany’s lateral thinkers and their love for Vladimir Putin.