German TV slams exclusion from European nationalist meeting

AP News
Posted: Jan 12, 2017 12:23 PM
German TV slams exclusion from European nationalist meeting

BERLIN (AP) — German public broadcaster ARD said Thursday it may take legal action after being refused access to an upcoming meeting of European nationalist leaders in the western city of Koblenz.

ARD television's program director, Volker Herres, posted a statement on Twitter, saying the broadcaster's editors "condemn this massive encroachment against the freedom to report."

"It is a loss for our audience that we won't be able to report on the meeting of right-wing populist parties in Europe," the station said. "This gathering is of great importance for the future political course of this movement."

The meeting is being organized by a European Parliament faction that includes members of France's Front National, Italy's Northern League, the Party for Freedom of the Netherlands and Alternative for Germany. Known by its German acronym AfD, the anti-immigration party has risen to third in opinion polls ahead of the country's general election this fall.

Apart from AfD co-leader Frauke Petry and the party's European lawmaker Marcus Pretzell, the Jan. 21 meeting will also feature Front National leader Marine Le Pen and the Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders.

ARD said it was told by Alternative for Germany that it had been refused access for "not meeting journalistic standards in its past reporting on the party" — a claim the broadcaster rejected.

"We reserve the right to take legal steps," ARD said.

Pretzell said keeping public broadcasters away would benefit German viewers, who are required to pay a monthly fee for the service.

"It's a win-win situation," he said in an email to The Associated Press.

Pretzell said he had also denied access to reporters from the Handelsblatt business daily, the weekly Der Spiegel and the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.