The German Association of Journalists (DJV) has asked those responsible at WDR to protect their free journalists. The journalist had the children's choir of the station tuned to the tune of Meine Grandma rides in the chicken coop motorcycle among other things the lines "My grandma rides in the chicken coop motorcycle. That's a thousand liters of super every month. My grandma is an old environmental pig". The phrase "environmental sow" caused widespread criticism on social media, the journalist was also personally insulted and threatened.
He followed up on his private Twitter account and wrote: "Let's talk about the grandparents, those who are now upset about environmental sow. Your grandmother was not an environmental sow. Right. But a Nazi sow". According to the DJV, members of the far-right scene ran up to his house and tried to intimidate him. There were also protests on Sunday in front of the WDR buildings in Cologne.
At the latest when such types appear, you know which side you have to stand on. The other. #OmaGate pic.twitter.com/Xx5rlyeRPg- StefanM64 (@ StefanM64) December 30, 2019
The journalist himself later apologized for his "Nazisau" tweet. "It was far from insulting an entire generation or even a certain population group," he tweeted. "If this impression has arisen, I would like to apologize to justified critics." Exempted from the apology are those "who have been showering me with threats of violence and death since yesterday."
WDR initially distanced itself
The Federal President of the DJV, Frank Überall, said according to a press release that it is not about questions of taste of satire, but about the protection of satire and freedom of expression. He also criticized WDR's previous dealings with its employees. This was "not very helpful".
After the criticism, the WDR initially distanced itself from its employee and deleted the video on Friday. WDR2 boss Jochen Rausch apologized on Saturday "for the unsuccessful action", the word "environmental pig" is inappropriate. WDR director Tom Buhrow also apologized. In a special show on Saturday evening, he said the video with the "accident grandma song was a mistake". On Twitter, the editors of the show "Current Hour" made it clear that the journalist concerned was "not an editor at WDR, but a freelancer".
The editor-in-chief of the ARD program Monitor , Georg Restle, took the journalist under protection: "Freelancers are the weakest links in public service broadcasting. If they are threatened publicly, we have to stand behind them. Regardless of whether we like it, what they publish. It's called freedom of expression. It's called steadfastness - against the enemies of democracy. "
WDR: Personal protection is offered to threatened employees
On Monday, other WDR officials responded to the threats: The fact that they had distanced themselves from a tweet from their colleague does not mean "that we distance ourselves from our employees as human beings," tweeted the editors of the "Current Hour". The employee was offered "any form of support". No unsuccessful tweet justifies threats.
The controversy surrounding the # OmaGate video resulted in insults and even death threats. "We will do our best to protect our employees," says WDR director Tom Buhrow. pic.twitter.com/SSC3AZEHgf- WDR Kommunikation (@WDR) December 30, 2019
Director Tom Buhrow said in the WDR2 midday magazine: "We will not tolerate this, I will do everything I can to prevent it". The threats revealed a terrifying level of brutalization. "Something is really sick in our country and we all have to do something to change it," said Buhrow. The media should be a bit more humble and be able to endure criticism. Threats of violence are not accepted. The WDR also announced that it was offering threatened employees personal protection. This applies to both permanent employees and freelancers.
Criticism from CDU and FDP
Politicians had also taken part in the debate about the video. North Rhine-Westphalia's Prime Minister Armin Laschet (CDU), for example, tweeted that the song WDR had exceeded the limits of style and respect for the elderly. Union parliamentary deputy Carsten Linnemann (CDU) told the Westfalen-Blatt that he understood the citizens who were now angry. Bundestag Vice President Wolfgang Kubicki (FDP) told the Bild newspaper that not everything that was bad could be "justified by the claim of a satire".