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German ethics council slams media over Covid reporting

A German ethics council has sharply criticised the country’s media for its reporting on the Covid-19 pandemic, dubbing the coverage “one-sided.”

The comments came as part of a new report published by Deutscher Ethikrat, entitled “Lessons Learned: Ethics Council Offers Orientation For Future Handling of Pandemics.”

The report argues that the Covid-19 pandemic “forced societies around the world to make sometimes far-reaching considerations and prioritizations.”

It added that these decisions could not only be politically justified, but must also be “ethically justified.”

“Measures against a pandemic must be democratically legitimate, ethically well-founded and at the same time socially acceptable,” said Alena Buyx, Chairwoman of the German Ethics Council.

“In our report, we give recommendations on how this can be better achieved in the future.”

The wide-ranging 162 page report touches on many issues, but notably harshly rebukes the German national media.

Referencing “mass media, and in particular the public radio and television stations,” the ethics council argued that the press is highly important during a crisis.

“Especially in times of crisis, [the media] have the indispensable task in a democratic republic of presenting the controversial pros and cons of measures to a reasoning public,” the report reads.

“This critical part of the task was not always fulfilled to the desired extent at the beginning of the Corona crisis.”

The council argued that at the start, the suddenness of the virus may have explained this lack of due diligence at the beginning. However, as the pandemic wore on, this became less justifiable.

“As the pandemic progressed, however, even obvious undesirable developments were hardly addressed with the necessary clarity by a press that saw itself as “constructive” or “sensitive to the common good,” the report stated.

The council argued that reporting which is too “affirmative” or “one-sided” can “fail to stimulate the formation of opinions in a democratic public” and did not present valid counter-arguments.

The report quoted an opinion article from German newspaper Neues Deutschland, in which the publication said “The crisis and state of emergency must not serve as an opportunity to forgo critical journalism. Because that’s when it’s needed most.”

The piece continued: “[The press] must show that political and social conflicts don’t disappear under the priority of “fighting the pandemic”…Showing contradictions and offering them a forum would be an educational task in the midst of all the media hustle and bustle.”

Since the start of the pandemic, some media outlets in Europe have apologised for their coverage of Covid, including one Danish newspaper which apologised to readers this January for its “hypnotic” reporting of the Covid narrative.



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