The West, media and democracy

Published 07.11.2014 02:01

Udo Ulfkotte is a German journalist born in 1960 and the former editor of the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. Between the years of 1986 and 1998, Ulfkotte served as an advisor for the Kohl government and practiced journalism for many years in various Arab countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Oman, Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. He also chaired the Konrad Adenauer Foundation between 1999 and 2003 and won the Annette Barthelt Foundation Award in 2003.

Another thing about Ulfkotte is that he publishes a newsletter named Whistleblower, which covers the stories that cannot pass from the auto-censure of German media. In 2014, Ulfkotte released a book titled "Gekaufte Journalisten" (Bought Journalists). He described his motivation to write this book as: "Journalists are being bought so that they betray not only their own people in Germany but also the peoples of all Europe. In my book, I described how we journalists lied to our readers in the past to impose on them the necessity of the war," adding that he is sick of the propaganda lies that could only be seen in a "banana republic." In his book, which covers the incidents he has witnessed in his long journalism career, Ulfkotte claims that the news produced by the considerable TV channels and newspapers that lead the world agenda were twisted and manipulated by governments. He points that many names in the German media are the journalists specially chosen by NATO and the U.S., adding that he was also forced to write fabricated news items.

Saying that the German Federal Intelligence Service (BND) was founded by the CIA, Ulfkotte depicts one of his experiences with this German intelligence service as such: "The BND turned to me for help to write a news story on Qaddafi and Libya at Frankfurter Allgemeine. The story was about Qaddafi's establishing a factory for the production of chemical gas in Rabtha. After Frankfurter Allgemeine covered this story, it also appeared on many TV channels and newspapers all across the world. But actually I had not heard of such an incident before; it was only reported by the intelligence service. Probably such a factory never existed."

Even if one-tenth of those allegations were true we would face a great scandal. Do the relevant institutions of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the EU consider paying attention to this subject? If there really is such a media order on the state level, freedom of expression or thought cannot be possible. This would pose a huge risk to Western democracies and the results of which cannot even be presumed.

During my visit to St. Petersburg a few years ago, I was told that Vladimir Putin founded the radio station that gives the harshest opposition in Russia. If this is true, Putin manages to have control over the opposition by designing it himself. In this way, both the needs of the public were met and risky subjects were avoided. The media's power of creating and manipulating perceptions is evident. It has been described as functioning as the fourth institution of democracy along with the legislative, executive and judicial branches. Media can really take on such a function and can become the voices of civil society, marginalized groups, deprived and suppressed opponents and minorities.

But if Western countries' manipulation of media as a means of shaping public perception is not prevented, media can turn into a creature that works against democracy. If the claims are true, maybe it has already turned into that. It is high time for Western countries to analyze this risk more comprehensively. If information is used to such an extent and manipulated for power games, Western Enlightenment will inevitably contradict the liberties it brought forward. Without such a confrontation the dark ages would return.

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