Populist, right-wing politicians are on the rise across the globe - not unlike the recently inaugurated 45th president of the United States - and one of the central tenets of their message is shooting the mainstream messenger: Accusing the news media of being purveyors of fake news and making them the story. It happened again this past week in Germany, when leaders of far-right, Eurosceptic parties from France, Italy, Austria and the Netherlands attended a conference and thrust the media straight into the spotlight.
44 percent of people in Germany distrust the media, yet the AfD is probably about 15 percent of the population. So that's a very troubling figure because this isn't just people with extreme views who don't trust the media any more. It's a very big portion of the population.
The German party that played host, Alternativ fur Deutschland, banned some establishment news outlets and their reporters from covering the meeting. Journalists were outraged, but that might have been the result the AfD was looking for.
The larger issue, the one that goes beyond Germany and this conference is - how do you cover politicians who thrive on being anti-establishment - which means being anti-the-media-that-has-become-part-of-the-establishment?
Expanding on AfD's media strategy, journalist Yardena Schwarz says, "I spoke to one of my sources at the AfD, yesterday, and he said that he sees that becoming the norm for the AfD, that any event, any conference, anything they're able to control access to, they'll continue to ban journalists that they see as being against the AfD. And, this is, obviously, a way to control what is written about them."
Outlets banned included Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of the country's most influential papers, the weekly magazine Der Spiegel, as well as Politico Europe, the offshore offshoot of the American news site. By picking a fight with some of Germany's biggest mainstream news outlets, the AfD is tapping into suspicions many Germans have of their media establishment - a feeling not limited to the political right.
The situation is not unique to Germany. Across the continent, populist, right-wing parties are on the rise. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders' Freedom Party is leading in the polls, with elections just six weeks away. France holds the first round in its presidential vote a month later, and Marine Le Pen's party looms large. Chancellor Merkel is expected to face the German electorate, probably in September.
Contributors: Matthew Karnitschnig, Europe correspondent, Politico; Yardena Schwarz, journalist; Andre Haller, Institute for Communication Science, Bamberg University; Frank Uberall, president, German Federation of Journalists
Source: Al Jazeera