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June 7, 2024
6 mins read

A German Paper Asked To Interview Us, Then Refused to Publish Our Answers. So We Did

This week, the head of investigations at German newspaper Tagesspiegel contacted red. for an interview. In the email from the paper’s Claudia von Salzen, the list of loaded questions made it clear that Tagesspiegel has one goal, not to investigate but to smear red.

The interview request comes after weeks of a handful of journalists working for Germany’s biggest media posting on X false claims about red. including the wild, and defamatory assertions that we have been “staging” major pro-Palestine actions in Germany, like the student occupation of Humboldt University, and that we are “close” to Russia.

This is part of a general campaign by the German media in collusion with the state, of smears and harassment against all who dare to challenge Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza.

In this context, red.’s Managing Director, Hüseyin Dogru, agreed to answer von Salzen’s questions on one condition: that she publish our answers verbatim and unedited. Von Salzen refused, saying: “as is customary with German media, we fundamentally do not agree to such conditions” (emphasis added).

So we are publishing the interview, in full, here

Dear Ms. von Salzen,

Before answering your questions, I want to point out two important details. Most of your questions are already answered on our website’s FAQs, usually the first port of call for an investigative journalist. But don’t let us tell you how to do your job, you in “German media” have shown that you know how to do it very well, especially since October 7.

Secondly, your selection of questions show that your intention is merely to amplify the defamatory claims that have been circulating over your German media colleagues’ X accounts, not to investigate the truth in them – again something I am sure you in German media know is a fundamental of journalism.

Let’s begin.

1. Is it true that you recently reported from the occupied HU building?

Yes, our team provided first class coverage of the student occupation of Humboldt University whose aim was to draw attention to Israel’s genocide and war crimes in Gaza. There was great interest from our international audience in this occupation especially because German media across the board has sadly been covering pro-Palestine activism in a way that is indistinguishable from the propaganda of the Israeli government as it perpetrates genocide. So, it is such that our coverage of these events in Germany has become relied upon to provide a more balanced perspective. The interest from our international audience has also been peaked by the notoriety which the German state has gained around the world for brutally repressing pro-Palestine activists, including during students’ attempt to occupy the Free University which was met with shocking police violence that drew the condemnation of academics across the country.

2. You were apparently the first media representative in the building. Were you informed in advance by the “student coalition” about the planned occupation, and to what extent do you work with the organization?

I can’t confirm if we were the first, but we did know very early on because, our small team, despite our tight resources, is very good at what we do. We are good journalists who cultivate sources, build trust and get access. In Germany it has been especially easy to do this, sadly because there we have some of the only journalists who since October 7 have acted with integrity and objectivity, not least in terms of calling Israel’s onslaught in Gaza objectively what it is: a genocide. It is also mind-blowing that our coverage has been labelled by German journalists as evidence that we are “staging” some of those events which we report on. In any reality other than German media’s, we would be applauded for getting exclusive access to some of the most important developments in the unprecedented movement of solidarity with Palestine in Germany. Indeed in the past I have won awards for similar coverage of different movements. In Germany, the Palestine solidarity movement, and covering it, is crucial, not least because Germany is the second biggest supplier of the weapons to Israel, weapons that are perpetrating war crimes in Gaza.

In contrast your newspaper, Tagesspiegel, has lost the trust of students in German universities because of its uncritical regurgitation of Israeli war propaganda. This is no exaggeration, and it was brought to global attention after this exchange between your Tagesspiegel colleague Jan Ebermann and UN Rapporteur Francesca Albanese, which has almost 3  million views on our Instagram account. Do not read the comments if you want to remain blissfully unaware of how the world views German media today.

On top of this, your coverage has put pro-Palestine activists who are already being repressed by the German state, in even further danger. Rarely is the pro-Palestine movement covered by your paper without the activists, including many Jews, being referred to as “Israel haters” and “anti-Semites.” And what’s worse, your newspaper has participated in the German media wide witch hunt of these activists who have been doxxed under headlines like “The Voice of Israel Hate”, with their names, addresses and photographs published.

This is why they loathe you and trust us. It is basic, not conspiracy. We would be delighted for your reporters to join us for some training in how to win exclusives and basic journalistic ethics. This does not seem to be “customary in German media”.

3. On your website, it says that red. media receives ‘donations from organizations that believe in the importance of our work.’ Which organizations finance your work?

Finally! You found our website. The next stage in your career is learning how to select > copy > paste, because you missed half of the sentence. The first half of it reads: “We receive private donations as well as donations from organizations that believe in the importance of our work” (emphasis added). As you can see, we passionately believe in journalism’s power to speak truth to power and we dedicate our platform to activists and movements that are a threat to some of the most powerful forces on the planet. The people who contribute to our work may have conflicts of interest in donating to us, or be at risk if their support is known, so they prefer to remain anonymous, a decision we have to respect in order to do our important work.

Now comes the fun part. The next three questions are all answered on our website, which you have lost again, we definitely need to book in that training. They are also essentially the same question asked in three different ways. It reminds us of those times we’ve been cross-examined by police (joke…kind of). Let’s go over them:

4. Is it true that red. media receives money from companies or organizations that are financed by the Russian state or belong to a Russian media holding?
5. Is it true that red. media has taken over from Redfish?
6. Redfish was a wholly-owned subsidiary of Ruptly GmbH. What is the relationship between red. media and Ruptly?

Here is a hyperlink to our FAQs. Yes, click on it. There. Now you can find the answer under two FAQs. The first is “How We Fund Our Work”. Oh wait, you copied the answer to that yourself above…let’s also train you to proofread your emails before hitting send. The second FAQ which can help you out here is: “Is red. a continuation of the now defunct redfish?”  

Still confused? red. has no relation to the Russian government nor any other government.

These three questions betray that the goal of your enquiry is not to verify the claims that have been swirling around on your colleague’s X accounts but merely to repeat them over and over again. There’s a famous quote often attributed to an infamous  German which should be a reminder of why German journalists in particular should be careful about this approach today. It went like this: “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”.

Claudia (can we call you that now?), once you are through with your training at red. you can send us over a new round of questions which we haven’t already answered anywhere else. This will be a once in your career opportunity to both get exclusive insights and investigate the truth of some of these claims swirling around amongst your colleagues. #JournalismGoals. Here is a non-exhaustive list of options:

A. Why do we cover things from the perspective of Palestinians and not Israelis?

B. How can we justify being objective as journalists when we cover so heavily the perspective of Palestinians and their supporters around the world?

C. How have we been able to grow such a big audience and impressive performance on social media in just over a year?

D. What is our view of the Russian government?

E. What is our view of Moscow’s role internationally?

F. What do we think about the war in Ukraine?

Aren’t you curious, just a bit?

7. You are responsible for the liquidation of Redfish. What happened to the remaining company assets?

Yes, I worked there, and I am good at boring business things, so it fell to me. All the remaining assets went to redfish’s parent company.

8. Is it true that Lizzie Phelan, also known as Elizabeth Cocker, is working for red. media today?

When your paper abandons its love for witch hunts, doxxing and destroying the lives of those who don’t swallow its propaganda, our team will be happy to tell you who they are and all about their jobs. Until then, we will leave it to your exemplary imagination.

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