“The German Press Council is the voluntary self-regulation of print and online media in Germany. It advocates compliance with ethical standards and accountability in journalism and to preserve the reputation of the press. As a form of self-regulation, the Press Council defends press freedom against outside interference” – this is how the Press Council presents .
Here we document the German Press Council’s assessment of the controversial article “How ARD and ZDF indoctrinate our children”:
A. Summary of Facts:
I On June 1, 2022, WELT Online published an article entitled “How ARD and ZDF indoctrinate our children”. Five guest authors, biologists and doctors, analyzed contributions from public service broadcasters.
Your accusation: ARD, ZDF and Co. pursues a threatening agenda. The researchers wanted, they write, “to get to the bottom of the misinformation about ‘polysexuality’.” They wanted to find out if it was true that the confirmed scientific finding of bisexuality was being called into question on public service television. What they saw on the programs was not journalism.
In the broadcasts, “that fact is consistently denied [worden]that there are only two sexes […] We asked ourselves: How can this be? Why are biological facts ignored? Why are children being indoctrinated and – instead of age-appropriate sex education – sexualized in a pushy way on channels that very few parents should even have on their radar?”
The result of the observations is a dossier of 50 pages. “The result is a distorted picture of reality based on rebuttable falsehoods that children and young people are now exposed to even in the early harmless ‘Show with the mouse’.”
“We are not alone in our demands; 120 scientists, doctors, psychologists, educators and representatives of other professions from all over Germany joined. The campaign was also supported by the gay and lesbian advocacy group LGB Alliance.”
Specifically on the subject of trans, the researchers write: “The path to the right body” is described as an easy step. It involves the use of puberty blockers, the administration of hormones of the opposite sex, and the surgical removal of the penis, breast and uterus. But the psychological and physical serious and irreversible consequences of such measures are either not described at all or at best mentioned in passing.” socially just ‘identify’ as that gender. Until the show with the mouse, the ‘Self-Determination Act’ was announced uncritically.
II. Eight readers complained about the article. Among other things, they criticize false (scientific) statements that are presented as facts and discrimination. Education and information are presented as indoctrination and sexualization.
It is scientifically proven that there is intersexuality, but this fact alone indicates that the statement of confirmed scientific double gender is wrong. People who do not see themselves as male or female would be discriminated against in the article and their human dignity violated. According to § 22 (3) PStG, this double gender is de facto inadmissible. The article is transphobic and homophobic.
Another accusation is that the article is titled as an opinion and gives the appearance of being scientific without being.
The article also requires the public service stations to report that their reporting on lesbian, gay, asexual, bisexual and pansexual identities or non-binary or transgender identities poses a danger to children and young people.
In addition, the rainbow flag is shown upside down in the article.
Ill. For WELT Online, WELT Digital’s editor-in-chief sends the opinion of the Forum’s department head. He structured the charges into five points.
1. The rainbow flag was depicted upside down
The editor-in-chief writes that in a first version of the teaser graphic for the online version, the rainbow flag was actually shown upside down (purple at top, red at bottom). It was simply an unfortunate bug that was fixed immediately after it was discovered.
2. The article contains objectively incorrect scientific statements, especially the claim of double sex
The editor-in-chief writes that the authors explicitly relate their theses about double sex in the article to biological sex (“sex”), not to social gender identities (“gender”). As far as biology is concerned, the notion of double sex was not only not refuted, but was confirmed by various biologists after the article was published and sometimes presented as outright self-evident. Professor Rüdiger Krahe from the Institute of Biology at the Humboldt University in Berlin said in an interview with the “Berliner Zeitung” that biology defines “sex by the gametes that produce an orgasm, i.e. whether it produces eggs or sperm. There is nothing in between .”
The objection of some complainers that the phenomenon of biological intersexuality disproves the linearity of the biological sexes is not shared by experts. Professor Rüdiger Krahe goes on to say to the “Berliner Zeitung”: “The fact that these people exist (ie: people born with ambiguous genitalia) does not change the fact that there are only two types of gametes, and that is the decisive factor in the biological definition.”
The “Netzwerk Wissenschaftsfreiheit”, an association of around 650 German-speaking scientists from practically all major German universities and research institutions, commented in an open letter to the WELT article in question: “In no case is the position which biological sex and gender identity separate that questioned the existence of transsexuals However, it is very much a legitimate opinion as well as a scientifically based point of view – many of the signatories have dealt with the subject scientifically and in practice for a long time – to distinguish between the basic binary structured biological sex and gender identity. . This means that no one’s human rights are denied, and no one is incited to hatred and violence.”
3. Transgender people are discriminated against in the position and their human dignity is violated (also because June 1 was deliberately chosen as the release date)
The publication of the text on June 1 was not an allusion to the beginning of Pride month, writes the editor-in-chief. Such an allusion would also not have made sense, since the beginning of Pride month might not be actively known to the general reader. There is no reference to Pride Month in the entire text, nor does the text contain any value judgments about the LGBTQ scene in general or about trans people in particular, let alone any derogatory ones. Instead, the authors presented their opinion that some youth formats from ARD and ZDF presented sexuality and sexual practices too explicitly, i.e. not age appropriate (the authors would also criticize a corresponding article on heterosexual relationships).
4. Sexual education is rejected or education is denigrated as indoctrination
The editor-in-chief writes that the authors would not reject sex education. In the text, you will instead advocate “age-appropriate sex education”.
5. The authors are not recognizable as experts
The editor-in-chief writes that the authors’ functions and activities are mentioned below the article. It must be emphasized that some of them also had their say in other prominent media and wanted to do so. For example, co-author Alexander Korte, senior consultant at Munich University Hospital, gave a five-page interview in “Spiegel” years ago and commented on the claims in a “Zeit Online” interview (June 14, 2022). Another co-author, Uwe Steinhoff, political scientist at the University of Hong Kong, has just published the article “Why biology only knows two sexes” in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” (June 20, 2022).
B. The Appeals Committee’s deliberations:
The Complaints Committee found no violation of journalistic principles. He examined the reporting in particular with regard to points 2 and 12 of the Code. The committee intensively discussed the question of whether the limits of freedom of expression are exceeded in the reporting.
The committee notes that there is fundamentally a public interest in the scientists’ dossier. Especially against the background of very polarizing public discussions about the design of the Self-Determination Act and the interpretation of concepts in the transgender debate. The panel comes to the conclusion that in this specific case, sticking to the purely scientific-biological view of gender does not include any group-related discrimination. In addition, the article does not contain general derogatory statements about transsexuals. The assessments of the TV content (“indoctrinated”, “sexualized”) – based on the analysis of the TV reports – must not be shared, they are also cross-border, but in the committee’s view still covered by freedom of expression.
The contribution is also marked as an opinion piece, the guest authors are recognizable as such. But the fact that scientists write here gives readers the idea that this is less meaningful than scientifically documented knowledge, some committee members argue. However, the committee’s majority believes that readers may ultimately classify the judgments expressed in the article as an opinion that represents an extreme position on the spectrum of public discourse.
The representation of the rainbow flag is incorrect. However, the editors corrected the inaccuracy after becoming aware of it and thereby resolved the breach of press ethics. The committee has no indications of a deliberate misrepresentation. Nor that the release could be negatively related to Pride month.
Overall, there is no violation of the German Press Council’s journalistic principles, which is why the Complaints Committee declares the complaint unfounded.
The decision was taken with 5 yes votes, 1 no and 1 abstention.