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Towards a different way of reporting

Photos of headscarf-wearing women taken from behind, bearded terrorists, dark-haired violent criminals – the image that is frequently portrayed in the German media of people of the Muslim faith is often unfavourable or associated with violent crime. The German Islam Conference’s working group 3 "The economy and the media as bridge-builders" is therefore calling for a responsible, impartial and different approach to reporting.

Topics relating to everyday matters should also be covered and the contribution of Muslim diversity to Germany’s common culture should be recognised. Having more qualified personnel with an immigrant background on the editorial staff of television, radio and print media would contribute a greater intercultural understanding of the subject and provide new perspectives in the media. Two specialist conferences, in which representatives from the media, academia and politics participated, were held in order to help achieve this aim.

The image of Islam in Germany: new stereotypes, old concepts of the enemy?

"If someone is involved in the protestant church, we call it an honorary office, but if someone is involved with the mosque it is known as a parallel society." This view, expressed by Armin Laschet, Integration Minister for North-Rhine Westphalia, was shared by many of the 200 attendees of the specialist conference, "The image of Islam in Germany", which was held in Berlin at the end of February 2008 in conjunction with the Herbert-Quandt Foundation.

Lale Akgün, Islamic political affairs spokeswoman for the SPD parliamentary group, identified an important reason for the negative image: the unflattering way in which Muslims portray themselves. "We must blame ourselves and ask what we have done to portray ourselves," agreed Ayman Mazyek from the Central Council of Muslims. Kai Hafez, a communications expert from Erfurt, was particularly critical and spoke of certain media having their own specifically negative agenda. The extent to which the events of 11 September 2001 have also contributed to a negative image of Islam in the German media was also discussed.

Media in Germany: Obstacle to or opportunity for integration?

At the invitation of the Federal Ministry of the Interior, approximately 80 journalists, politicians and media experts attended a conference at the Federal Press Office in Berlin in mid-June 2008 to discuss the role of the media in the integration process. "Bad news is good news and good news is no news". This slogan influences the way reports are compiled and as a result an incomplete picture of immigrants is produced, presenting them in problematical situations, as was demonstrated in various examples by Lutz Tillmann, Managing Director of the German Press Council.

The conference attendees agreed that a different perspective was needed and that this would come about by having more media personnel with an immigrant background. To date, immigrants are notably underrepresented in this field. Changing the style of reporting can attract new readers, listeners and viewers to German language media. For the idea that there is a media ghetto, into which for example the population of Turkish origin retreats, accepting only media in their mother-tongue, is patently wrong, according to Professor Hans-Jürgen Weiß from the Institute for Journalism and Communication Studies at the Freie Universität Berlin, whose study refutes this thesis. In conclusion, the conference attendees called for the press to become more aware of their responsibility and to reflect critically on the origin, effect and consequences of what they publish.

DIK-editorial team, 25.11.2008

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