Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Free Press Under Pressure? Experiences and Consequences of Hateful Harassment on Journalists in Germany

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Abstract:  The rise of populist movements all over the world and various global crises in recent years have led to a sharp increase in distrust in news and the media. Although this development is tangible globally, it seems pertinent to take a look at a Western liberal democracy with a comparatively good journalistic infrastructure such as Germany, where hateful harassment and attacks on journalists are on the rise. These issues have been widely discussed publicly in Germany. However, it would be useful to take into account the perspective of those affected by these phenomena. To contribute to the discourses on hate against journalists, the current contribution presents data from a survey of active journalists in Germany (n = 322). The questionnaire comprised both standardized and open-ended questions, focusing specifically on hateful harassment and attacks experienced by journalists, including the ways through which they are transported and whether hate can be politically localized. The results reveal that hate and attacks are mainly attributed to right-wing individuals and groups. In addition to verbal hate, various responding journalists reported having been physically attacked or having received death threats. Given the frequency of experienced hateful harassment, most respondents fear that the freedom of press in Germany is in jeopardy (62%), and about half have considered self-censorship to avoid being the target of hate. The severity of experienced hate is illustrated by open-ended questions in the form of personal accounts that are analyzed using qualitative content analysis. The results are discussed in light of the role of a free press in modern democracies, as well as recent research on devaluing attitudes towards the free press in Germany.

Keywords:  far-right; Germany; hateful harassment; journalism; qualitative analysis



© Yann P. M. Rees. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.