Right-wing extremist media on Merkel's desk

Chancellor (CDU) and her closest employees in the Chancellery are paying more attention to political debates on the Internet. As part of their press reviews, they also receive regular information about content on right-wing populist and right-wing extremist platforms. This emerges from documents that the Chancellery issued to the Tagesspiegel in response to an application under the Freedom of Information Act (IFG).

Accordingly, in addition to political reports from the press and radio, an “analysis of social media” is available in good time for the daily service meeting in the Chancellery called “morning situation”. Under the “Alternative Media / Blogs” category, three to four “noteworthy articles” from the last 24 hours are pointed out, often from portals such as “Journalistenwatch” or “Politically Incorrect” (PI).

“Journalistenwatch” publishes, among other things, videos by the Austrian right-wing extremist Martin Sellner from the “Identitarian Movement”, which is being observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution. The “PI-News”, which describe themselves as “News against the mainstream”, are mainly directed against Islam and migrants in Germany.

Minister of State Bär speaks of “disgusting dirt” and “garbage”

In the “Alternative Media / Blogs” category, there are also recurring references to “noteworthy articles” from the internet portals of the right-wing weekly newspaper “Junge Freiheit” and the “Compact Magazine”, which the constitution protection classified as a suspected right-wing extremist case in the spring. Texts from the blog “Tichy’s Insight” by the conservative business journalist Roland Tichy are also mentioned several times.

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Tichy gave up the chairmanship of the Ludwig Erhard Foundation because a sexist attack on the Berlin SPD politician Sawsan Chebli had been published in his medium. The Minister of State in the Chancellery Dorothee Bär (CSU) called the publication “disgusting dirt” and “garbage”.

The selection is compiled by the Federal Government’s Press and Information Office headed by Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert. Seibert decided last summer that the usual press reviews should be supplemented by posts and articles from digital media in the future. His authority has been creating the relevant overview since October 2019 and sends it to the Chancellery at 7 a.m. Among other things, it also contains the “ten most interactive political posts in the last 24 hours” and the “most interactive post”.

Depending on the news situation, further information from social media monitoring would be made available at irregular intervals, it said. Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and Instagram, among others, are evaluated. There is no fixed list of search terms; focus on “political content”.

Right-wing blogs have great reach

The frequent mention of right-wing and right-wing extremist portals and blogs is likely to be due to their success with the public. The press office announced that articles from the “German newspapers and online portals with the greatest reach” would be included in the press review. The documents on “Social Media Monitoring” of the Federal Government handed over to the Tagesspiegel come from the beginning of the year. The Federal Press Office has so far refused to allow further inspections.

According to the Chancellery, the daily media review with an “overview of current events” forms the main part of the “morning situation”, which is limited to a small group. In addition to the Chancellor and Seibert, the head of the Federal Chancellery Helge Braun, Merkel’s Minister of State Hendrik Hoppenstedt, her media advisor Eva Christiansen, the head of the central department Babette Kibele and their office managers will also take part.

As long as Merkel was still chairwoman of the CDU, high-ranking party officials also had access, including then General Secretary Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. The composition of the round was kept secret by the Chancellery for a long time, but had to be disclosed last December following a complaint by the Tagesspiegel on the decision of the Higher Administrative Court of Berlin-Brandenburg (Az .: OVG 6 S 47.19).

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