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How Turkish and Arab media see Germany

Meltem Kulacatan, a political scientist, has addressed the image of Germany in Turkish newspapers by examining the "European section" of daily newspapers such as Hürriyet, Zaman and Sabah.  This "European section" deals with Germany and is a special supplement that is only produced for the German market.

The image of Germany in these newspapers is inconsistent, Kulacatan says. "On the one hand there is a clear, protective attitude." This was demonstrated in Ludwigshafen on 3 February 2008 when a fire broke out in a block of flats inhabited by people with a Turkish background. Nine people died. Turkish media were quick to jump to the conclusion that the fire was a xenophobic attack. At the time, one newspaper literally wrote: "We have been burned again." Such reports convey a "them and us" attitude which sets them apart from the German majority society.

Positive resonance in Turkish media to Merkel at the integration summit

But at the same time there is another side. "When Angela Merkel appeared, empathetic and co-operative, at the first “Integration Summit” in 2006, reports were largely positive. There were hardly any critical voices to be heard," says Kulacatan. The feelings of 'wanting to belong' and 'keeping your distance' now stand directly side by side.

"Germany is always portrayed in a good light, when Germans learn Turkish or speak appreciatively of migrants," says Uta Rasche of the German FAZ newspaper. "Requirements, such as migrants having to attend German courses, are reported negatively. Hidden behind all this is the fear of having to relinquish their own culture," says Rasche.

Are Turkish newspapers deliberately adding fuel to the fire of fear? No, says Ahmet Külahci, Berlin correspondent for Hürriyet. "We have nothing against people wanting to assimilate – as long as they do it voluntarily. But we do support the idea of not being forced to do it." However, Turkish readers can begin to feel uneasy when they read Hürriyet, says Ferda Ataman from the German newspaper, Tagesspiegel. "You can often detect the criticism in Hürriyet that Turks in Germany are marginalised. It is sad, but in most cases these criticisms are still justified."

Mixed feelings about Germany in Arab media

There are other subjects that determine the predominant image of Germany in Arab media. Essentially, the picture is positive. And Germany’s economic reputation should not be underestimated here.  "The 'Made in Germany’ label has a positive influence on the overall image of Germany. This has not changed for years," explains Aktham Suliman, the Germany correspondent of the well-known Arab broadcasting station, al-Jazeera. The perception of German politics is disproportionately more variable.

Gerhard Schröder's refusal to enter the Iraq war made a lasting impression on Arab media. A certain enthusiasm for Germany could be felt for years, explains Suliman.

An enthusiasm which has subsided again. Germany’s attitude towards the Arab world is too "indeterminate", says Suliman. Nevertheless, people continue to follow carefully the stance the country is taking on foreign affairs issues. And the image ascribed to Germany can change quickly. Take the current Gaza crisis, for example. If Angela Merkel holds Hamas responsible for the crisis, this casts a shadow over the essentially positive image that Germany has in the Arab media.”

 

Thilo Guschas, 30.01.2009

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