US journalists trade independence for access

(By Deutsche Welle) In the US, journalists are sacrificing editorial independence in exchange for access to top politicians. The practice has a long history in Germany, where interviews often must be authorized before publication.

In democratic societies, the media has long struggled with the political class to define what information is fit to print. While journalists seek access to high-level officials for a scoop, officialdom often does its best to control the flow of information to journalists in order to mold public opinion in its interests.

But in the United States, the balance of power between the journalist and the politician has increasingly shifted in favor of the latter. According to a July 15 report by Jeremy W. Peters of the New York Times, political journalists in Washington are increasingly trading their editorial independence for high-level access to members of the Obama administration.

Quotes gleaned from administration officials by a reporter are not just reviewed by the publication’s editor, they are often sent to the very same officials for approval – and even redaction – before going to print.

According to Stephen Ward, there is a growing and unhealthy “pressure on journalists and … on news organizations to get the story, to be first, to be the first tweet.”

“The officials who know this are quite aware that in this era of 24 hours news, access is king,” Ward, the director of the Center for Journalism Ethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told DW. “This is just a game of access – it’s as old as journalism.”

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Germany acknowledges ‘warlike situation’ in Afghanistan

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened by its Nazi legacy, Germany swore never again to wage war. In the last of a three-part series, DW examines the country’s decision to deploy its military in Afghanistan, and the ‘warlike conditions’ there.

A political shockwave reverberated across the Atlantic Ocean after Islamic terrorists razed the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. In keeping with Germany’s responsibility as a NATO member, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder declared unlimited solidarity with a wounded America.

Schroeder’s declaration carried sweeping military consequences for Germany. Only three years after his left-of-center coalition had participated in NATO’s air war against Serbia, he deployed soldiers for an ambitious stabilization mission in war-torn Afghanistan.

Germany’s stabilization mission looked increasingly like a counterinsurgency as its soldiers faced a resurgent Taliban. And in September 2009, tensions came to a head when a German colonel ordered an airstrike against two Taliban-hijacked fuel tankers. The strike killed 142 people, laying bare the realities of the Afghan conflict for the German public.

After years of whitewashing the conflict in Afghanistan, Berlin has been forced to acknowledge that its soldiers are fighting and dying under “warlike conditions.” Germany can never again claim that it will never wage war.

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The Balkan Dilemma: Germany returns to military action

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened by the genocidal legacy of National Socialism, Germany swore never again to wage war. In part two of a three-part series, DW examines how the country returned to military action in the Balkans.

War returned to Germany’s doorstep when Yugoslavia imploded in ethnic violence. During the winter of 1994, German officials agonized over whether to participate in a NATO-led military intervention aimed at containing the war.

Although the nation’s highest court had declared such interventions constitutional, Germany remained deeply reluctant to use military force for any reason other than defense. But enormous political and moral pressure pushed the Kohl government and the opposition toward a shaky consensus in favor of military action against Serbia.

This consensus faced its trial-by-fire when the Social Democrats and Greens took the reins of power in 1998. In a twist of fate, the traditionally antiwar parties ordered Germany’s first offensive military strike since World War II.

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Germany’s struggle with military power in a changing world

(By Deutsche Welle) Burdened by the genocidal legacy of National Socialism, Germany swore never again to wage war. In part one of a three-part series, DW examines how Germans overcame historic taboos about deploying their military abroad.

In memory of the atrocities committed under the Third Reich, democratic West Germany foreswore war as an instrument of its foreign policy. Its military served a single purpose: To help defend the NATO allies in Western Europe and North America from a Soviet attack.

But when the Berlin Wall fell, the world changed, as did Germany’s role within it. The government of Chancellor Helmut Kohl had just finalized German reunification when a series of conflicts erupted in the Persian Gulf, Yugoslavia and Somalia.

As the international community intervened to contain these conflicts, Germans faced a historically uncomfortable question: Should a reunited and fully sovereign Germany become a military power capable of using force on the world stage?

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