Mon Sep 8th, 2008 at 03:46:23 PM EST
On 30 August, an interview by Thomas Roth with Vladimir Putin was broadcast by the ARD, the most important public television in Germany.
The reaction to the broadcast was the most feverish outrage in the small blogosphere of Germany which the country so far has seen, and even triggered a response from the mighty media giant.
However, the more calm voices, with which I agree, think more along the lines of this blog entry: "Sturm auf die Bastille - oder im Wasserglas?" (Storm on the bastille [for ignorant people, this was the start of the French revolution] - or in a glass of water [which is a German idiom to describe, that nothing relevant at all happend]).
The interesting aspect therefore IMHO is, how strong the reaction was.
On this day in August, Roth got the possibility to do an interview with Putin, which the ARD wanted to use for the evening news. The program planning was, that the interview could take up to ten minutes. This was communicated (this links to the reaction of Thomas Roth to his critics) to the Russian side before the interview. As this was potentially interesting, the Russian TV asked, if they would could attend, too, which was agreed upon as well. As it happens, in the end the interview took not only 10 minutes, but ~30 minutes. The Moscow studio of the ARD cut the interview down to ten minutes for the ARD evening news, while the Russian TV broadcast the full 30 minutes.
And here began the trouble...
The ARD initially announced the version which was cut down to 10 minutes as the full interview, and did nowhere indicate that there would be more material. Only three days later, the full material was shown uncut on the regionalised branches of the ARD in Berlin/Brandenburg and Bavaria.
Of course, in the meantime people did find the Russian version of the interview, and translated it to German. (I don't know if there is an English written version, there is however on youtube, in several parts, of which the following is the first)
I don't want to discuss the whole interview, but the start is the following, with the italics the part which was cut out by the ARD:
|Thomas Roth: Herr Ministerpräsident, nach der Eskalation in Georgien sieht das Bild in der internationalen Öffentlichkeit so aus - damit meine ich Politik, aber auch Presse: Russland gegen den Rest der Welt. Warum haben Sie Ihr Land mit Gewalt in diese Situation getrieben?
|Thomas Roth: Mr President, after the escalation in Georgia, the impression in the international public , both in politics and press, is: Russia against the rest of the world. Why did you drive your country with violence in this situation?
| Wladimir Putin: Was meinen Sie, wer hat den Krieg begonnen?
|Vladimir Putin: What do you mean, who started the war?
|Thomas Roth: Der letzte Auslöser war der georgische Angriff auf Zchinwali
|Thomas Roth: The final trigger was the Georgian attack on Tskhinvali
| Wladimir Putin: [Ich] Danke Ihnen für diese Antwort. So ist es auch, das ist die Wahrheit. Wir werden dieses Thema später ausführlicher erörtern. Ich möchte nur anmerken, dass wir diese Situation nicht herbeigeführt haben.
Ich bin überzeugt, dass das Ansehen eines jeden Landes, das im Stande ist, das Leben und die Würde der Bürger zu verteidigen, eines Landes, das eine unabhängige Außenpolitik betreiben kann, dass das Ansehen eines solchen Landes mittel- oder langfristig steigen wird. Umgekehrt: Das Ansehen der Länder, die in der Regel die Interessen anderer Staaten bedienen, die die eigenen nationalen Interessen vernachlässigen - unabhängig davon, wie sie das auch erklären mögen -, wird sinken.
|Vladimir Putin: [I] thank you for that answer. So is it, that is the truth. We will discuss this topic in more detail later. I would just note that not we have driven that us into situation.
I am convinced that the reputation of every country, which is in the position to defend the lives and dignity of the citizens, a country that can make an independent foreign policy, that the reputation of such a country will rise in the medium-or long-term. Conversely: The reputation of countries, which tend to impede the interests of other States, which are neglecting their own national interests - regardless of how they may explain this - will fall.
The criticism here was of course, that the ARD cut away the most central argument, that Georgia, not Russia started the war. Later there were cuts when Putin suggests that the US gov told Georgia to attack Russia to support McCain in the election.
Roth denies in the DLF that the decision to broadcast the full material in regional TV stations was only made after protests from viewers.
Moreover he claims that every journalist wants his work most prominently in the TV, so he personally would of course prefer the full version.
I do think there are some unlucky cuts, but in the end, the wish to make propaganda is not proven by this interview. There were no complains by the Russians. The whole "propaganda scandal" screaming was done by Germans. The ZDF, another public TV station, had a broadcast with Michael Saakashvili - live - which was critisised as propaganda as well, because he got more time than a former Russian diplomat, who said he now is only privately in Berlin. Given the respective status, this as well can hardly count as propaganda, but respect to the office of a president of a country. There was shorter, but quite harsh criticism of Saakashvili after he left the conversation.
Overall, the outrage shows mostly one thing very well: the younger generation, which makes up the larger share of the internet community, is much more pro-Russia than the establishment media, which is mostly made up of people who have experienced the cold war.
Furthermore, it triggered my interpretation of the recently increasing popularity of Steinmeier vs. Merkel, which is due to the more Russophile role of Steinmeier, compared with the more Atlanticist role of Merkel.