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Heike Raab (SPD) is considered one of the most important media politicians in Germany

Photo: Jan Woitas / dpa

The Commissioner of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate for Media, Heike Raab, has admitted mistakes and resigned from her mandate as Deputy Chairwoman of the SWR Board of Directors. "It was never my intention for a second to exert pressure. I am all the more deeply sorry that this impression could be created," the State Secretary said in a statement.

The SPD politician had criticized the reporting of the Südwestrundfunk (SWR) in April on the Ahr Valley flood disaster in a letter with official letterhead. The broadcaster had rejected the criticism, the CDU and Free Voters had requested a special session of the state parliament because of possible influence on the reporting of independent media.

"I underestimated the impact because of my special role in media policy," Heike Raab now writes. "In retrospect, I consider the fact that I used the letterhead 'Authorised Representative' to be a mistake. I will apologize for that." She should have addressed her "objective criticism" of the SWR report in the committees.

"You know how committed I am to free and independent media. That is why I would like to dispel any doubt and, against this background, have resigned my mandate on the SWR Board of Directors in writing."

Raab is the state's representative to the federal government and for Europe and the media. She is the coordinator of the Broadcasting Commission of the Länder and is one of the most important media politicians in Germany. As a representative of the state, she is also a member of the State Broadcasting Council.

Criticism of a SWR report on the resignation of Roger Lewentz (SPD)

Raab had sent a letter on the official letterhead of the state government to the Rhineland-Palatinate SWR state station director Ulla Fiebig. The letter was about a report on SWR television with a political correspondent of the station, in which the political future of SPD politician Roger Lewentz was also discussed. He had resigned as Rhineland-Palatinate Minister of the Interior in connection with the Ahr Valley flood disaster.

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One of the correspondent's assessments at the time was: "It is probably unique in Germany that a state minister of the interior, who has to take political responsibility for the many deaths of this terrible Ahr disaster, continues to remain state chairman of his party."

Raab had criticized this statement in her letter as "objectively false". SWR regional broadcaster director Fiebig had replied that the correspondent's sentence was classified as an expression of opinion and not as a statement of fact.

Special session of the state parliament of Rhineland-Palatinate

Raab's letter to SWR will also be the subject of a special session of the state parliament next Wednesday. At the request of the parliamentary groups of the CDU and Free Voters, the parliament deals with the role and responsibility of Prime Minister Malu Dreyer (SPD) and her state chancellery in the matter. This is about a possible influence on the reporting of independent media, as the state parliament announced on Thursday in Mainz. A plenary session of just under two hours is scheduled.

The chairman of the CDU parliamentary group in the Rhineland-Palatinate state parliament, Gordon Schnieder, criticized Raab and Dreyer. "Raab's statement today is at best a half-hearted admission of guilt and further proof of her lack of awareness of injustice and the weakness of leadership on the part of Prime Minister Dreyer," said the CDU politician. The media politician is "no longer acceptable in the office of State Secretary. The only thing left to do is for the resignation or dismissal of the State Secretary by Prime Minister Dreyer."

The Board of Directors of SWR is a supervisory body that keeps an eye on the profitability and finances of the public broadcaster ARD. Raab was vice-chairman there. On request, the committee office informed that the seat that has now become vacant belongs to the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate by SWR state treaty. "So the decision on the replacement is there." A man must be sent if there was previously a woman on the board, it said.