Journalists in Armenia often publish news articles based on their “own sources” and although the news is later denied, the media continues to remind the public about the news in their next publications over and over again. As a result of the constant circulation of such news, those fabricated stories, despite being true, become inseparable from people’s biographies.
A sensational event that happened in Germany a few years ago can serve as a textbook example and illustrate how violations of journalism ethics and falsification of real events can sometimes backfire like a boomerang.
On one side of our story, we have Build, a German tabloid newspaper which according to Wikipedia, sells more than three million copies and has more than 20 editorial offices throughout Germany. On the other side, we have Die Tageszeitung (also called Taz) newspaper with a much smaller budget and the circulation of a little over 50,000.
Bild is notorious for its mix of gossip, inflammatory language, and sensationalism, often publishing personal details of show business artists. In Germany, they often say that Bild violates personal rights of people.
In 2002, Kai Diekmann chief editor of Build sued Taz, when Taz published a satirical article claiming Kai Diekmann had undergone an unsuccessful penis enlargement procedure in a medical center in Miami. The journalist at Taz, also wrote that the medical center paid 200 US dollars to Diekmann for the damage.
The satirical piece was based on a real story, and Taz simply decided to teach a lesson to Diekmann for digging up dirt on people and violating people’s right to privacy. Diekmann sued Taz for 30,000 Euro in damages for illegal violations of his privacy as well as libel and defamation of character.
The judge rejected the claims stating the facts were true, and said that, as editor of Bild, Diekmann has been violating others’ privacy and therefore “is less heavily burdened by the violation of his own privacy,” and furthermore that he should “assume that those standards that he lays on others are also of importance for himself.” At the same time, the judge forbade Taz newspaper to re-publish the satirical piece.
But the most interesting was yet to come.
In 2009, Bild newspaper lost another court case to Taz. To celebrate the victory, Taz installed a relief sculpture of a naked man stretched over five floors of the building of their editorial staff. Moreover, the sculpture was installed overnight.
The giant penis relief sculpture depicts Kai Diekmann. And since the building faces the main editorial offices of Bild, every working day Kai has a chance to admire himself in full glory. Diekmann’s penis extends all the way up the front of the Taz building and ends in a cobra’s head.
The sculpture displays grotesque figures of people who were used in controversial headlines by Bild. The title on the top floor, “Friede sei mit Dir” translates into “Peace be with you” or “Friede be with you”. It is a clever word play on the name of Friede Springer, the widow of the head of the publishing house responsible for Bild.
The author of the artwork, a painter and sculptor Peter Lenk later commented that he was not trying to create a scandal but rather to bring peace with his artwork.
The female employees at Taz required for the sculpture to be removed from the wall. Their request was denied by the editor. Now the building with the naked sculpture of Diekmann has become one of Berlin’s most spectacular sights.
The 23rd building on Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse, where the editorial office of Taz is located, immediately became famous. Two days after the sculpture was installed, tour guides have been already bringing visitors to show them this bizarre satirical statue.
Apparently, the new editor in chief at Taz, Ines Pohl didn’t appreciate the artwork and wanted to dismantle it. However, it turned out that the sculptor Peter Lenk had signed an agreement with the previous editor that stipulates that in case the statue is dismantled prematurely, he will receive a compensation of 130,000 euros. Taz simply cannot afford to pay that amount.
By the way, Kai Diekmann did not file a lawsuit this time.
Currently, a new editorial office for Taz is being built in another part of Berlin. The future fate of Kai Diekmann’s naked statue is still unknown. Perhaps, they will let it stay there. Without it, Rudi-Dutschke-Strasse will lose its appeal.
The important thing is not to cross the line.
P. S. Year to year, we see an increase of programs in the Armenian media, including online media, which chose to focus on digging up and discussing details of people’s private lives.