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The ARD Putin "censorship scandal"

by Martin Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 03:46:23 PM EST

On 30 August, an interview by Thomas Roth with Vladimir Putin was broadcast by the ARD, the most important public television in Germany.

The reaction to the broadcast was the most feverish outrage in the small blogosphere of Germany which the country so far has seen, and even triggered a response from the mighty media giant.

However, the more calm voices, with which I agree, think more along the lines of this blog entry: "Sturm auf die Bastille - oder im Wasserglas?" (Storm on the bastille [for ignorant people, this was the start of the French revolution] - or in a glass of water [which is a German idiom to describe, that nothing relevant at all happend]).

The interesting aspect therefore IMHO is, how strong the reaction was.


On this day in August, Roth got the possibility to do an interview with Putin, which the ARD wanted to use for the evening news. The program planning was, that the interview could take up to ten minutes. This was communicated (this links to the reaction of Thomas Roth to his critics) to the Russian side before the interview. As this was potentially interesting, the Russian TV asked, if they would could attend, too, which was agreed upon as well.  As it happens, in the end the interview took not only 10 minutes, but ~30 minutes. The Moscow studio of the ARD cut the interview down to ten minutes for the ARD evening news, while the Russian TV broadcast the full 30 minutes.

And here began the trouble...


The ARD initially announced the version which was cut down to 10 minutes as the full interview, and did nowhere indicate that there would be more material. Only three days later, the full material was shown uncut on the regionalised branches of the ARD in Berlin/Brandenburg and Bavaria.

Of course, in the meantime people did find the Russian version of the interview, and translated it to German. (I don't know if there is an English written version, there is however on youtube, in several parts, of which the following is the first)

I don't want to discuss the whole interview, but the start is the following, with the italics the part which was cut out by the ARD:

Thomas Roth: Herr Ministerpräsident, nach der Eskalation in Georgien sieht das Bild in der internationalen Öffentlichkeit so aus - damit meine ich Politik, aber auch Presse: Russland gegen den Rest der Welt. Warum haben Sie Ihr Land mit Gewalt in diese Situation getrieben?Thomas Roth: Mr President, after the escalation in Georgia, the impression in the international public , both in politics and press, is: Russia against the rest of the world. Why did you drive your country with violence in this situation?
Wladimir Putin: Was meinen Sie, wer hat den Krieg begonnen?Vladimir Putin: What do you mean, who started the war?
Thomas Roth: Der letzte Auslöser war der georgische Angriff auf ZchinwaliThomas Roth: The final trigger was the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali
Wladimir Putin: [Ich] Danke Ihnen für diese Antwort. So ist es auch, das ist die Wahrheit. Wir werden dieses Thema später ausführlicher erörtern. Ich möchte nur anmerken, dass wir diese Situation nicht herbeigeführt haben.
Ich bin überzeugt, dass das Ansehen eines jeden Landes, das im Stande ist, das Leben und die Würde der Bürger zu verteidigen, eines Landes, das eine unabhängige Außenpolitik betreiben kann, dass das Ansehen eines solchen Landes mittel- oder langfristig steigen wird. Umgekehrt: Das Ansehen der Länder, die in der Regel die Interessen anderer Staaten bedienen, die die eigenen nationalen Interessen vernachlässigen - unabhängig davon, wie sie das auch erklären mögen -, wird sinken.
Vladimir Putin: [I] thank you for that answer. So is it, that is the truth. We will discuss this topic in more detail later. I would just note that not we have driven that us into situation.
I am convinced that the reputation of every country, which is in the position to defend the lives and dignity of the citizens, a country that can make an independent foreign policy, that the reputation of such a country will rise in the medium-or long-term. Conversely: The reputation of countries, which tend to impede the interests of other States, which are neglecting their own national interests - regardless of how they may explain this - will fall.

The criticism here was of course, that the ARD cut away the most central argument, that Georgia, not Russia started the war. Later there were cuts when Putin suggests that the US gov told Georgia to attack Russia to support McCain in the election.

Roth denies in the DLF that the decision to broadcast the full material in regional TV stations was only made after protests from viewers.

Moreover he claims that every journalist wants his work most prominently in the TV, so he personally would of course prefer the full version.

I do think there are some unlucky cuts, but in the end, the wish to make propaganda is not proven by this interview. There were no complains by the Russians. The whole "propaganda scandal" screaming was done by Germans. The ZDF, another public TV station, had a broadcast with Michael Saakashvili - live - which was critisised as propaganda as well, because he got more time than a former Russian diplomat, who said he now is only privately in Berlin. Given the respective status, this as well can hardly count as propaganda, but respect to the office of a president of a country. There was shorter, but quite harsh criticism of Saakashvili after he left the conversation.


Overall, the outrage shows mostly one thing very well: the younger generation, which makes up the larger share of the internet community, is much more pro-Russia than the establishment media, which is mostly made up of people who have experienced the cold war.

Furthermore, it triggered my interpretation of the recently increasing popularity of Steinmeier vs. Merkel, which is due to the more Russophile role of Steinmeier, compared with the more Atlanticist role of Merkel.

Display:
Thanks for this!

The first thing I recall is our discussion in your Blogging and politics in Germany - bits of a Spiegel article diary. So the German Blogospehrre begins to make waves.

I think the screaming is okay for now, it's overblown, but with the small influence of blogs, it wasjust right for the right result.

I note I only learnt of the affair from your this afternoon, but from what I read up on it (mainly blog entries that were part of the 'screaming'), I'm left with an impression closer to your moderate interpretation.

the establishment media, which is mostly made up of people who have experienced the cold war.

I'm not so sure. The current thirty-forty-something elite were only children and youngsters during the Cold War, so unless they cared of politics from a young age, it's legend for them, too. Meanwhile, the real media Old Guard should also remember the special attention to the Kreml at least from Brandt. Uncompromising isolate-Russia Atlanticism would have been more the thing of Franz-Josef Strauß, not the entire political establishment (even if the same Freedom Fighter Strauß liked to come to Hungary to hunt in the woods with the local 'communist' dictator).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 04:30:46 PM EST
my interpretation of the recently increasing popularity of Steinmeier vs. Merkel, which is due to the more Russophile role of Steinmeier, compared with the more Atlanticist role of Merkel.

What I wonder about is, how could the general population (as opposed to young bloggers) get information on which to base a less anti-Russia view. Even if German media did report the facts, most of what I see on the private TVs was the NATO/EU spin. Or did people think about Kosovo?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 04:35:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Kosovo can be a reason, but I'm not sure. It would make sense given the dramatic explaination Fischer gave at the time for make German to participate for the first time in more than 50 years in a war, just when the greens got to gov for the first time into gov, which originally had a strong pacifistic base. Now 'humanitarian interventionism' is seen by some as kind of duty

I don't know for sure and can only speculate

  • the tradition of Brandt's eastern policy
  • the same reason - whatever that is - that makes Germans much more likely to answer 'Gorbatchov', when asked who has made the most important contribution, to end the cold war, while Poles are likely to answer 'The pope' or 'The USA', especially the question who has allowed the German unification. The united Germany became member of the NATO and was generally percieved as becoming a member of the west, so one could have expected more opposition by Russia than by western allies.
  • Kohl's friendship with Yeltsin + Schroeder's frienship with Putin ("Lupenreiner Demokrat")
  • the fact that Putin supported Schroeder along with Chirac in the opposition to war in Iraq
  • the fact that Georgia wants military aid/NATO membership; and then the same reasons would apply as why the Germans refuse to support the war in Afghanistan, even when it isn't called 'war' in the media, but just operation - there is a lot of principled antimilitarism in Germany independent of reason. The word 'Krieg' makes people fear. As you for sure have noticed, nobody says 'Krieg gegen den Terror' to translate 'war on terror'.
  • the perceived special relation with Russia, and the break of the promise of special realtions with the US (I mean similar to the UK special relations)

The fact that Merkel and Steinmeier have both rather high ratings allows as well for wider forms of antiamericanism as reason, e.g.
  • many people have the impression that Germany is too close aligned with the USA. That we are often vassals.
  • all kind of bad things are believed can be done by US America

Putin by the way plays very well on many of these issues in his interview.
  • He mentions Srebrenica to remind about the duty of 'humanitarian interventionism', where Dutch troops have failed this duty.
  • He implies Europeans don't follow their own interests, but the US interests.
  • He suggests Saakashvili could have done the bidding of the US gov and helping McCain in the election.


Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 05:19:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Can we have the interview in German? I'd love to see Putin speak German as my Russian is horribly bad while my German is just bad.

And also because it would remind me of that wonderful photo of Schröder and Putin hugging, with Putin looking like Hitler and Schröder like Stalin. ;)

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 06:43:58 PM EST
Oh stupid me, the interview is in Russian. I just thought Putin would speak German when interviewed by a German TV channel as he is fluent in the language.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 06:48:08 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The reporter speaks German however. I linked youtube videos in the comment below.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 06:52:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You mean the reporter speaks Russian :-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 02:56:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]




Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 06:51:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You can now read the official German transscript of the full interview. (What you won't see there is which part was cut and which was shown in the 9-minute version.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 03:10:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
by PeWi on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:20:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hi PeWi, great to see not really being here.  But it would be nice to see you really being here and more often.:-)

Hope you and your family are well.

by Fran on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:26:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
oh I am still here, just not writing, - we thought briefly of coming to Paris, but from where we are now, it is just this bit further and since DoDo isn;t coming either. That might have swung it. (-:
by PeWi on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:33:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Awww... maybe next year I can come, covering a longer distance than you (at least in time); so no excuses then :-) !

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:36:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
only by 230km (I think)
by PeWi on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:47:43 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Air:
Aberdeen-CDG 965 km vs Budapest Ferihegy-CDG 1249 km (+284 km);

Road (highways):
Aberdeen-A74(M)-A1-M11-M20-Eurotunnel-A26-A1-Paris 1249 km vs. Budapest-Nürnberg-Ludwigshafen-Saarbrücken-Paris 1489 km (+240 km);

Rail:
Aberdeen-King's Cross 524 miles + St Pancras-Gare du Nord 491.2 km = 1338 km, vs. Budapest Keleti-München Hbf-Paris Est 1607 km (+269 km).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 05:15:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would have been great to see you both in Paris! I was thinking about you today...
by Solveig (link2ageataol.com) on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 07:27:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Drop in a word every now and then, all the same. You're missed when you "disappear", you know. (Do you know?) :-)
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Sep 10th, 2008 at 02:23:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
just in case and because I forgot to explain - that link contains what and how the interview was cut...
by PeWi on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 05:53:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]
If only the US Democrats were more assertive against bullshit, more like Putin.
by das monde on Tue Sep 9th, 2008 at 11:47:30 PM EST


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