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German journalist Boris Reitschuster censored by YouTube

Article in solidarity with Boris Reitschuster, published by Die Achse des Guten.

The YouTube channel of the German journalist Boris Reitschuster, also known from his work at the Federal Press Conference, was blocked for a week after he reported on the anti-Covid demo in Stuttgart and conducted various interviews there. This blatant censorship reminds him of his time in Moscow and is a disgrace to our democracy. Something like this can happen to each of us sooner or later - it's just a matter of time. That is why we are making this space available to Boris Reitschuster. Other media are meanwhile gleefully practicing “silent treatment”. Collegial solidarity? Largely nil. Here is his report:

I am no longer at ease with what is happening in this country. I lived and worked in Russia for 16 years, in an authoritarian system. I experienced bad things there. But I have never seen myself subjected to censorship as I do today in the self-proclaimed “best Germany of all time”. Even on Russian state television I was able to criticize Putin's system as corrupt. I got yelled at, it was highly unfair, but I could say what I wanted and it wasn't censored. Could I criticize Merkel today on ARD or ZDF?

Unlike in Putin's controlled democracy and media world, in which I was naturally also privileged as a foreigner, today in Germany I have to think twice about every word when I make my videos for YouTube, for example. Worse still, every word an interviewee says can have dire consequences for me. The day before yesterday I did what a journalist takes for granted: I broadcast live from the anti-coronavirus demonstration in Stuttgart. Everyday press. A few hours later the video was deleted and my channel with 218,000 subscribers blocked. For a week. With an interview with soccer world champion Thomas Berthold, which I recorded on the sidelines of the demonstration, I switched to a second channel. Not a single viewer was able to watch the video to the end: It was deleted in the middle of the premiere.

Freedom of the press in Germany is being strangled every hour. Less than half a day after the two censorship cases, I rejected both complaints. The scope of the decision is considerable: I cannot report this week to my subscribers about the federal press conference. It doesn't matter how you feel about the Covid measures, whether you are right or left, conservative or liberal, whether you like my work or not: every sincere democrat would have to raise his voice, stand up and protest in the face of such censorship. What is happening instead? At best, ducking away, at worst, glee and applause for the YouTube censorship on Twitter. Nothing could make it clearer how far our society has drifted from the ideals of a liberal democracy in the direction of opinion totalitarianism.

"I guarantee complete freedom when speaking, but not afterwards."
In addition to viciousness, stupidity and naivety are important companions of the new censors: Youtube has a "domiciliary right", one can hear again and again. And you could say your opinion elsewhere. This is absurd: On the one hand, YouTube, as a quasi-monopoly, is bound by German jurisprudence - including the fundamental right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, the reference to other channels is as absurd as when a dictator tells publishers that they may no longer have their newspaper printed in the printing works because they all refuse to do so as private entrepreneurs, but they could finally publish on other paper. Or radio stations use a loudspeaker instead of radio frequencies. Many in Germany do not seem to recognize the subtle difference in terms of freedom of expression, which the dictator Idi Amin is said to have once defined: "I guarantee complete freedom when speaking, but not afterwards."

As terrifying as the censorship itself is how many people don't even understand it. And the smoke grenade fell victim to the fact that it was private companies that were operating there. It is. But can a phone company censor the content of phone calls? The state has put pressure on social networks to censor. The network search law was even cited as a model in the Russian Duma. Our state introduced outsourcing to the introduction of authoritarian, anti-democratic steps. Critical Opinions? You can have them! But if you spread them, there is a threat of a ban, a de facto advertising ban and the same. Restrictions for non-vaccinated people? The state would never do it! But if the companies do... Restaurant bans, bans from banks for those who think differently? It is not the state that does this for us, but formally private companies. And the state creates the atmosphere in which these private companies do, almost have to.

Unfreedom and authoritarian mechanisms always creep in through the back door. While German society is fixated on the tyranny of the Third Reich with its horrors, it has become completely blind to the undermining of democracy through the back door. Not á la Orwell with open repression, but as Huxley predicted: That the new dictatorships will not build on violence, but on manipulating people's thinking. This is the only way to explain the almost panicked fear of other opinions, the switching off of video films during the premiere, the breaking off of complaints within hours. That would be unthinkable in free democracies. Above all, they don't need it at all. How much must a state have to hide when it feels compelled to create such an atmosphere of fear and censorship?

History shows: Those who censored were rarely right. And they went down in history even less than the “good guys”. Wherever there was censorship, the collapse of the respective systems was always a matter of time. Unfortunately, this is not good news: no matter how run-down a system may be - a breakdown is never edifying. And as the history of the Soviet Union shows, it can also take decades, with an eternal phase of wasting away. Back then, people risked their lives and their freedom in the struggle against bondage. Today you don't really have to risk that much. It would be worth it.

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