Moritz Gathmann, a reporter for Cicero, speaks to a police officer after he and his female camera operator were insulted and their rental car attacked by two men who covered their faces with scarves in Neukirch/Lausitz, Germany, on September 2, 2022. (Photo Credit: Moritz Gathmann)

Attendees attack, insult 2 German reporters covering public political discussion about energy prices

Berlin, September 15, 2022 — German authorities must conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the attack on two journalists covering a political meeting and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.

On the evening of September 2, Moritz Gathmann, a reporter for monthly print magazine Cicero, and his female camera operator and photographer, who requested anonymity for security reasons, were insulted and attacked by attendees while they covered a public political discussion at a restaurant in Neukirch/Lausitz, a town in eastern Saxony state, according to a report by daily newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, a Facebook post by Gathmann, and Gathmann, who communicated with CPJ via email.

“German authorities should take the attack on Cicero magazine reporter Moritz Gathmann and his cameraperson seriously, find the perpetrators, and ensure that they are held responsible for this violent act,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Journalists who cover issues of public interest must be able to work without fear of assault.”

During the discussion–about the effects of the energy price increases and purported anti-Semitic conspiracy theories–a man that Gathmann estimated to be between 20 and 25 years old asked the photographer to delete a photo she took of him, according to those sources. Despite immediately complying, the man physically pushed the photographer toward the door and began shouting insults and obscenities but stopped when Gathmann intervened.

Gathmann said he believed the man to be part of the neo-Nazi supporters in attendance, based on their tattoos and shirts with neo-Nazi slogans and insignias. This group later attempted to prevent him and his photographer from returning to the restaurant after the event took a break, shoving Gathmann back from the door and only allowing him to reenter after an organizer intervened.

Gathmann said the group continued to watch him and his photographer; as such, they felt threatened and asked one of the organizers to accompany them to their car. The organizer agreed, but once they left, two unidentified men who covered their faces with scarves appeared and started shouting profanity, according to those reports.

The journalists got into their rental car, and the men tried to open the car’s door, hit the windows, and smashed a side mirror. Neither journalist was injured, but Gathmann rapidly drove away, hitting the door of another vehicle parked on the street.

CPJ emailed questions to the press department of the State Criminal Police Office in Saxony but did not receive a reply. The office took the investigation over from local police on September 6, according to the daily newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Editors’ Note: The last paragraph of this alert was updated to correct the name of the police office.