At the weekend, a celebrity came out as a reader of the right-wing populist blog journalist watch. The former constitutional protection president Hans-Georg Maaßen shared on Twitter an article on this portal, which systematically disseminates revisionist, racist and anti-Semitic content. Later, Maassen deleted the recommendation without comment. Contributions from various right-wing personalities have appeared in the online media over the past seven years: publicists Akif Pirinçci and Vera Lengsfeld published texts there, as did publisher Götz Kubitschek or Austrian vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ). A video column by Henryk Broder is published and a video format of the speaker of the identities in Austria, Martin Sellner.
According to Zeit Online, Journalistenwatch now has one supporter less: the state. The tax office Meißen deprived the support association of the portal the charitable status. Donors can no longer deduct their financial support for tax purposes. The authority did not want to speak officially with reference to the tax secret.
The imprint of Journalistenwatch is missing since at the beginning of June 2019 the reference to the charitable decision of the tax office and the tax number of the association. The club chairman Marilla Slominski denied the loss of charity, but asked on request only to not harass their employees. After the request of Zeit Online can be found in the imprint a reference to the statutes of the association, which suggests a charitable nature.
A node of the scene
Since its foundation in 2011, the portal has become one of the most influential media of the New Right. It is a hub of the scene, a hinge also between the two ostracized camps of the current, the Islamophobic right-wing populists and the right-wing extremist strategists.
According to Journalistenwatch, hundreds of thousands of people visit the site every day. This is not verifiable, because the online medium does not measure its range independently. But the statistics provider Alexa estimates the response to almost 300,000 page visits a day. According to the analysis service 10000flies, Journalistenwatch reaches many readers, especially via social media – on Facebook it is still ahead of offers such as FAZ, SZ or ZEIT ONLINE.
On the website, lurid and inhumane articles are published with headlines such as "17-year gold coin from Somalia on Sextrip in Bonn" or "Madhouse Germany: Muslims are Nazis, and Nazis are Muslims?". More than a hundred other texts, for example on "terror gold pieces" and "machete specialists", as migrants are often called here, have been published on the site so far.
In many articles authors make a mood against anything that does not fit in with the radical right-wing world view: Some authors rush against representatives of Jewish organizations, against maritime rescuers, politicians of established parties and critical journalists of serious media. The makers generalize, sharpen and distort the reality. For example, sexual assaults on refugees are reported, but the much more frequent rapes committed by German perpetrators are not an issue.
Promotion of "popular education"
The "Journalistenwatch e.V. – Association for Media Criticism and Counter-Publicity" was founded seven years ago in Berlin and runs the blog. From the beginning the association tried to become charitable. Already in the first statute, the time online exists, it says in paragraph 1 that Journalistenwatch "exclusively and directly charitable purposes" pursued, in particular "the promotion of democratic and civic education". Later it became "popular education".
In 2016, however, the district court in Berlin demanded a rectification of the statutes, so that the charitable status could be awarded. Shortly thereafter, the founders moved the registered association then to Jena, where he was recognized in February 2017 as a non-profit. Now, the portal solicited with this note money: "You save with each donation taxes and so can the Merkel regime 'even more wipe one out."
Last year, a debate about the charitable nature of politically oriented associations was sparked. The left globalization critics of Attac lost their charitable status, the left-liberal German environmental aid should be denied by the will of CDU politicians this status – the latter so far without success.
However, even right-wing clubs have difficulties with recognition as a non-profit. The AfD Support Association "for the preservation of the rule of law and civil liberties e.V." from Stuttgart, the public benefit was not granted in 2017. Other right-wing associations such as the Ludendorff memorial in Tutzing in Bavaria or the State and Economic Policy Society in Hamburg have been a charitable organization for decades, reported the ARD magazine Panorama in the spring.
Advertising revenue from large companies
As the tax office Jena, probably through critical reports on Journalistenwatch, attention to the activities of the site and the opposition to the supposed purpose of the club, the club moved last year, his seat again, this time to Saxon Meissen, as the Tagesspiegel found out.
With a legally correct statute, it is relatively easy in Germany to get the charity for an association. At first, tax inspectors check only for paper, mostly only cursorily. The competent tax authorities have simply too few employees to examine the actual activities of clubs. Withdrawal of the tax-privileged status is therefore more difficult, and there are often lengthy procedures in the tax courts. Reconciliations between the tax authorities from Saxony and Thuringia probably led now to the result, the charity of Journalistenwatch to withdraw.
Although the association is now registered in Meissen in Saxony, the medium seems to be cared for from Saxony-Anhalt. The founders of the portal have settled in Halle near the House of Right-Wing Identities, in the neighborhood of the new-right Antaios Publishing House, the Secession Journal and the State Policy Institute, a training center for New Right officials. The AfD has achieved great electoral success in the region.
First left, then right
The club founder Thomas Böhm has made a remarkable journalistic career. After the traineeship at the left daily paper (taz) he worked for the Berliner tabloid B.Z., in order to make himself later with a magazine for all dog lovers in the Internet independently. Böhm founded in Germany the right-wing populist party Die Freiheit mit, a sister party of the "Partij voor de Vrijheid" by Geert Wilders in the Netherlands. In Bavaria, freedom was monitored by the constitution protection.
The party dissolved in 2016 in favor of the alternative for Germany, many members joined the AfD. The party-based Freedom Foundation was taken over by AfD members and was for a long time in discussion as the official AfD Foundation. To this day Thomas Böhm is also managing director of the right-wing citizen movement Pax Europa. During this time he also founded Journalistenwatch.
Since its inception, the portal has also been financially supported by the Islamophobic organization Middle East Forum in the USA. However, most of the income comes from donors and advertisers. And the latter are numerous on the pages. Advertising banners from major companies such as Deutsche Bahn were displayed via a third-party provider – the companies thus financed the politically extreme portal. Deutsche Bahn regretted this on request and stated that "the said website will be blacklisted" and that in the future no DB advertising will be shown on the journalist watch. "Of course, advertising of Deutsche Bahn on right-populist sites has no place," said a spokesman.
However, most of the advertising comes from relevant right-wing organizations: Kopp-Verlag promotes its books, and the AfD and Pax Europa also advertise. Recently, a banner ad for a so-called Patriotic summer festival of the identities was also switched. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has just classified this group as far-right. Until nine months ago Hans-Georg Maaßen was still president of exactly this authority. (This text first appeared on zeit.de.)