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Neo-Nazis suspected in torching of journalist's car in Germany

Protesters gesture towards members of the media as they march through the streets of Cologne during a demonstration by German far-right groups, 26 October 2014
Protesters gesture towards members of the media as they march through the streets of Cologne during a demonstration by German far-right groups, 26 October 2014

REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

This statement was originally published on rsf.org on 30 December 2014.

Reporters Without Borders condemns last weekend's [27 December 2014] arson attack on a German photojournalist's car in Berlin, in which right-wing extremists are suspected. It was the second such attack this year [2014] on the journalist, who has been the target of neo-Nazi threats.

The car, which was parked outside his home, was found burning in the early hours of 27 December. The fire gutted the vehicle's engine compartment. The car of a local politician involved in anti-neo-Nazi activities was also set on fire the same night.

When the photographer, who has asked not to be identified, was the victim of a similar arson attack in April, a local politician with known links to anti-neo-Nazi groups was also the target of a similar attack at almost the same time.

“It is intolerable that such acts, clearly designed to intimidate a journalist critical of neo-Nazi activities, should be able to take place repeatedly,” Reporters Without Borders Germany spokesperson Astrid Frohloff said. “Prosecutors and police should spare no effort to bring those behind these attacks to justice and prevent any recurrence.”

Police said the Berlin Office of Criminal Investigation was investigating the possibility that last weekend's attack was politically motivated.

The photographer often covers right-wing demonstrations and is one of 18 photo-journalists whose names and photos appeared in a “wanted poster” that right-wing activists have been circulating since November, often accompanied by threatening comments and slogans such as “Lying press, shut up.”

He said a well-known neo-Nazi took a photo of him in his car about two months before the first arson attack.

Frequent neo-Nazi threats against journalists

Similar verbal insults and threats have repeatedly been reported during far-right demonstrations in Germany in recent months, including at “Hooligans against Salafists” demonstrations in Cologne in October and in Hannover in mid-November. In December, police banned a demonstration that a far-right party wanted to stage outside a local journalist's home in Dortmund.

The head of Berlin's police and the head of its interior department were recently criticized by journalists' representatives and opposition politicians after reports that police repeatedly failed to intervene to protect journalists from being threatened and jostled during a series of anti-refugee demonstrations in Berlin.

The offices of regional newspapers have also been daubed with far-right and xenophobe graffiti. This happened twice in September to the Lausitzer Rundschau, a newspaper in Brandenburg state that has won awards for standing up to neo-Nazi activity and was already targeted in a similar fashion in 2013. The offices of the Nordkurier newspaper in the northern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern were targeted with neo-Nazi and anti-refugee graffiti and posters twice in December.

It has meanwhile emerged that, for several years, Lower Saxony state's domestic intelligence department has been illegally spying on well-known journalists who investigate neo-Nazi activities such as Andrea Roepke and Kai Budler. Since this spying came to light, these journalists have been fighting to get full access to the information gathered about them.

Germany is ranked 14th out of 180 in the 2014 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. For more details about the situation of journalists in Germany, see http://t1p.de/c9po.

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