December 22, 2007

Getting involved – for the wrong reasons!

On December 15, Marco W. returned to Germany – it was on the cover of every German newspaper. The 17-year old had spent 8 month in a Turkish prison, because he is accused of sexual abuse of a minor.

On April 12, Turkish police had arrested Marco, because the mother of 13-year old Charlotte from Manchester said he had abused her daughter. The case went to court in June, but a decision has not been made since then. Marco claims the girl said she was 15 and that it was her idea to kiss and cuddle – that’s as far as they went that night. Charlotte insists it was against her will.

The German as well as the Turkish media reported on the case from day one – but, while doing so, only the German media crossed the line ……

It seems that, because Charlotte and her family refused to go public and to give any interviews, the German media decided to portray her as the culprit and not as the victim. Germany’s most popular newspaper for example titled “Her claims brought him to jail!” and put a picture of Marco showing him in jail next to the headline. Without knowing what had really happened that night or waiting for a judiciary statement, journalists decided to make him the victim. Doing so they clearly crossed the line – as far as good and ethical journalism is concerned. They threw their objectivity overboard simply because he was the one suffering from being in a Turkish prison and he was the one who agreed to do interviews – he made a better story!

Another thing that I believe the German media should be ashamed of is the fact that they completely ignored Charlotte’s wish not be part of the media theatre as well as her right to anonymity. Women in the UK who report sexual abuse or rape have the right to anonymity and can prevent journalists from printing any personal information about them that could give other people a hint about who they are. But thanks to the German media everyone knows where Charlotte and her family live, which school she goes to and what the family does in their free time…
To protect their daughter from German journalists, Charlotte’s parents had asked the police for help. They then started to escort the girl on her way to school and put the house under police protection.

As weeks and even months went by with Marco not being released and no progress in sight, the German media started to create their own spectacle, pointing out the deficits of Turkish justice and prisons as well as the slow progress of the trial that kept Marco in prison. Instead of reporting the case, the media made it a political issue – and used it as an excuse to discuss the Turkish wish to become a member state of the EU.
I agree with Vural Öger, a member of the EU parliament, who said that the coverage by the German media was unbalanced and biased against Turkey.

Throughout the whole time, when Marco was first accused of sexual abuse and then released from prison last week, the vast majority of German media failed to portray the story in a balanced way that would actually tell the reader/viewer what happened and not what the media thinks had happened (or should happen).
I am also really excited to see how the story continues, as I read that the German TV station RTL ´bought` Marco’s story as an exclusive – that is why they flew him from Turkey to Germany in a private jet and brought him to a secret place, which is said to be a container near their studios…..

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