Deutsche Welle implements action plan following antisemitism allegations

Following allegations of antisemitism against some Deutsche Welle (DW) employees and distributors, the general management developed a comprehensive action plan and presented the status of implementation to the Broadcasting Council.

DW Director General Peter Limbourg emphasized that such measures are intended to position DW in a manner “that will hopefully take the need away for any accusations of antisemitism thereafter and that leaves no room for doubt about the values DW stands for – namely freedom and dialogue, understanding and openness to the world. The Board received the Director General’s report on the measures already implemented and planned.

“The Broadcasting Council welcomes how decisively and seriously DW is implementing the very comprehensive package of measures. We are confident that this process will have a lasting effect,” said Broadcasting Council Chairman Prelate Karl Jüsten. “The Broadcasting Council supports the management on the path it has taken, which is intended to rule out cases of antisemitism in the future. The severance of employees who had made unacceptable statements shows that DW is determined to leave no room for antisemitism. With the existing formats and points of contact at DW, there will be no need to discuss any possible future misconduct via media reports.”

The board also addressed personnel measures implemented by the management in connection with the antisemitism allegations. Peter Clever, Chairman of DW’s Administrative Board, said, “The staffing measures adopted were adequate, purposeful and in line with the recommendations of the independent investigation commission. DW also has a duty of care to its employees here.”

Excerpt from the Director General’s report to the Broadcasting Council
In their investigation report in January 2022, antisemitism commissioner of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and former Federal Minister of Justice Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger and psychologist Ahmad Mansour concluded that misconduct on the part of individual employees occurred, but that there was no antisemitism in DW’s journalistic programming.

To prevent this from happening in the future, an “Antisemitism/Jewish Life/Israel and the Palestinian Territories” competence team was established in March. This team oversees the quality of programming on these topics and provides advice and support to editors – and to staff in other areas, as needed. In addition, the competence team will develop targeted program proposals in the medium term.

DW’s Code of Conduct was sharpened and made more binding with the participation of the staff council. It now explicitly states that DW will not tolerate any form of antisemitism, racism or discrimination such as sexism, either in its dealings with employees or in the services it offers. “Zero tolerance” applies to seditious, punishable behavior such as and in particular the denial or relativization of the Holocaust. Boundaries for statements and the behavior of employees are also more clearly stated. The revised version of the Code of Conduct will be forwarded to all active employees; their confirmation of receipt is required.

A DW Declaration of Values has been developed to govern relations with distributors and other business partners. These values are based on the DW Act, the German Constitution, the UN Declaration of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. Sending the DW Declaration of Values to business partners provides the basis for discussions and possible consequences in the event of violations of the values outlined therein.

In order to strengthen risk management in business relationships and to communicate its values more concretely here, DW has introduced comprehensive third-party risk management. Special screening mechanisms have been developed for sales-related business relationships. In addition, the decision on whether or not to enter into contractual negotiations is placed on a broader internal basis.

For the purpose of prevention, DW is expanding its recruitment process for job applicants. Values-based recruiting and extended checks during the hiring process will provide an improved assessment prior to hiring in the future. Appropriate training courses are available for managers and other DW recruiting staff. They also address the role and responsibility of managers in the selection processes. The topic of recruiting is also integrated into the management onboarding process.

Management training and antisemitism awareness training have been carried out in cooperation with the Anne Frank Educational Center. Initially, around 200 people will be required to attend by mid-July. The format provides an overview of current debates, definitions and historical references on the topic of antisemitism in Germany. It also offers opportunities for (self-) reflection based on (journalistic) texts and images and draws on DW Editorial Guidelines as a basis.

DW has agreed on a definition of antisemitism and will communicate this internally on a mandatory basis. In doing so, DW is guided by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. Detailed consultations with the following external experts took place in advance: IHRA Secretary General, Federal Government Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Antisemitism, Competence Center for Prevention and Empowerment, Amadeu Antonio Foundation, and Anne Frank Educational Center.

The definition includes recognition of Israel’s right to exist and rejection of Holocaust denial and relativization. Based on this definition, Programming, Sales and DW Akademie have formulated specific derivations for their respective work.

To strengthen the Compliance department, the Compliance and Brand Integrity staff unit was moved directly to the Director General’s office on March 1. At the same time, the position of Brand Integrity Officer was created. He will report directly to the Director General. The Compliance and Brand Integrity staff unit will enforce the values set out in the DW Law, Mission Statement, Code of Conduct and DW Declaration of Values both internally and in business relationships.

DW will establish new dialogue formats with partners in the MENA region. Participants from the MENA region are again expected to attend DW’s Global Media Forum on June 20-21 in Bonn, including distributors and other business partners of DW and DW Akademie.

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