German TV channel in hot water over ‘Muslim Merkel’ photo

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BERLIN: A German TV channel faced criticism from its viewers after it aired a mocked-up image of German Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a headscarf.

The channel ARD was accused of spreading ‘anti-Islam propaganda’ as it showed the photo in the background of a segment on refugee quotas in its report.

However, the channel has since denied all accusations and claimed that the image was “designed to capture people’s attention”.

 “We welcome the many criticisms of the graphic in yesterday’s ‘Report from Berlin’ and we are sorry some disagreed with our portrayal of the chancellor or even misunderstood,” the programme said in a statement published on Facebook.

The statement further added that the graphic was intended as satire and reflected “the achievements of our Western society – freedom of expression, press freedom and equality”.

Despite that, many viewers took to Facebook and termed the channel’s act as promoting anti-Islam sentiments, calling the report ‘manipulative’ and ‘appalling’.

“This is not constructive journalism,” one viewer wrote.

Others compared the image to that used by Germany’s anti-immigrant protest group, Pegida, which stands for Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West.

Some also defended the report, saying the programme was entitled to freedom of expression and had asked “very reasonable questions”.

Writing on Facebook, German journalist and author Jakob Augstein compared the ARD report to the tactics of the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD).

 “Don’t the colleagues know the anti-Islamic propaganda of the NPD? I don’t like the word but I consider it to be a scandal,” he said.

The anti-Islam group Pegida attracted tens of thousands to protest marches in cities around Germany earlier this year, with some waving placards displaying Ms Merkel, the German chancellor, wearing a headscarf. On Sunday, several thousand people attended protests in two towns – Plauen and Sebnitz – after a call to action by the group.

The ARD controversy comes at a time of heightened tension over immigration in Germany, which has said it is expecting 800,000 refugees and migrants to enter the country this year.

 

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