A German journalist and presenter has resigned from the Bavarian public service broadcaster Bayerischen Rundfunk after claiming they did nothing to help when he was targeted by neo-Nazis and internet trolls.
Richard Gutjahr who was working as a retained freelancer for Bayerischen Rundfunk (BR) said he contacted his employer Ulrich Wilhelm who was and still is the boss of the channel three years ago, and asked for help after he and his family were targeted by right-wingers and conspiracy theorists.
Gutjahr witnessed the terrorist attack in Nice on holiday in 2016, in which 86 people lost their lives. He reported about it as a BR journalist for ARD, a joint organisation of Germany’s regional public-service broadcasters.
Only eight days later, Gutjahr witnessed another dramatic crime when a killing spree in his hometown of Munich left nine dead. He reported again.
But after that his close proximity to the terrorist acts saw him linked with them by those who allege he was part of a movement to gain local control by staging terror acts.
Now as the new year starts, he has written a public letter to his employer saying: “After 22 years it is now my last day as a so-called “permanent freelancer” and worker at Bayerischen Rundfunk.”
He outlined how for years he had been terrorised by right-wing extremists, even receiving death threats and in the open letter to the BR boss in a blog posting that was published on 31st of December he said: “Exactly three years ago I wrote you a letter. I asked you personally for help in my fight against my attackers online. Against conspiracy theorists, neo-Nazis and right-wing extremists who have been terrorising my family and I right up until the present day.”
He said however that his appeal for help remained unanswered, and instead the station’s director Wilhelm and lawyers had written to him advising him that “the BR can offer freelancers no legal advice.”
He said, as a result, the murder threats had to be tackled by him and his family alone, without any help from BR. He had legal insurance but had to pay the bills himself when it was cancelled, and the cost has now reportedly spiralled out of control.
He said the only thing that he was offered from BR had been one single month’s salary as financial support. He added that in addition the management at BR were told that his legal costs were fully covered and that they had apologised to him frequently for the lack of support.
The 46-year-old journalist said this was simply not the truth, and it was also the case that the broadcaster paid only lip service to its pledges to tackle fake news and hate speech.
Many people supported the journalist’s statements, such as Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) politician Ruprecht Polenz who wrote: “Everyone should read Richard Gutjahr’s open letter to the director of BR. It shows the personal threats journalists are faced by right-wing extremists – and how much they need our solidarity.”
And the well known Austrian journalist Armin Wolf wrote: “Unfortunately, Richard Gutjahr’s open letter to say goodbye to Bavarian Radio sounds terrible. One would hope that a broadcaster with a budget of almost a billion could legally assist one of its best-known employees against death threats.”
A spokesman for BR said: “We offered Gutjahr further employment in an area that was in line with his other work, but he rejected the offer. As a result cancellation was made by mutual agreement in March of last year, and since then he has not worked for BR.”