Germany - Dismissal

Berlin Court Finds Deutsche Welle Unlawfully Dismissed Journalist Farah Maraqa

Published on Mon Sep 05 2022 - modified on Mon Sep 12 2022

Amsterdam and Berlin, 5 September 2022

Palestinian-Jordanian journalist Farah Maraqa won her lawsuit against German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW), which dismissed her and other 6 journalists in February 2022.

Following a hearing on 20 July 2022, the Berlin Labour Court ruled today in favour of Farah Maraqa, ordering Deutsche Welle to reinstate her and to pay for the costs of the legal dispute. This suggests that the Court recognised that Farah’s termination, based on a controversial investigation and unfounded allegations of antisemitism related to reports published before her employment contract, was illegal.

This comes after the judge had proposed a settlement between the journalist and DW in the form of a joint statement. DW never commented nor replied to Farah Maraqa’s proposal of a statement that includes a public apology, a retraction of their allegations and reputation rehabilitation.

It is the second lawsuit that DW loses after they terminated the contract of 7 journalists from their Arabic service. On 7 July 2022, the Bonn Labour Court found that DW’s dismissal of Palestinian journalist Maram Salem was unlawful. In another case, DW settled, and all the remaining cases are still pending.

The dismissals were presumably based on a controversial investigation report led by Ahmad Mansour, who was criticized by several experts as biased, and used the IHRA working definition of antisemitism (IHRA-WDA) and its problematic examples to assess social media posts and reports as antisemitic. This manifests an anti-Palestinian sentiment and leads to a significant chilling effect on any journalist who would cover Palestine/Israel.

The ELSC is proud to have provided support for Farah Maraqa who stood firm in her convictions and had the courage to take DW to Court.

It is a relief that the judge ruled in Farah’s favour and held Deutsche Welle accountable for this illegal dismissal. We hope this sends a clear message that they should stop their censorship practices. This case illustrates how the institutionalisation of the IHRA-WDA can lead to severe infringements upon freedom of expression and freedom of the press. At the same time, it is another confirmation that pushing back – including through legal action – is effective and is a necessity in order to uphold these rights.

said Giovanni Fassina, Director of the ELSC.

So far, it appears DW management has refused to acknowledge their mistakes and has instead anchored its prejudiced positions in a new Code of Conduct published on 1 September 2022. What is new in this binding Code is that it obliges DW employees to “maintain restraint in the content and form of our social media and other publications in both a professional and private context”. It also mentions Israel twice when referring to commitments against racism and antisemitism, including: “Due to Germany’s history, we have a special obligation towards Israel.” It is not clear what obligations this statement implies for DW employees, nor whether it means unwavering political support the Israeli government, which would raise important questions related to the independence of the press. The Code also repeatedly warns employees of potential consequences if any violation of the Code is observed, including dismissal.

Additional note: The motivations of the judgement will be available mid-October.

Media coverage

The Left Berlin, Verdict announced in the case of Farah Maraqa vs. DW: Victory, but vindication awaits, Emily Baumgartner, 10 September 2022

+972 Magazine, German broadcaster requires employees to ‘support Israel’s right to exist’, Hebh Jamal, September 8, 2022

Middle East Eye, Germany: Ruling in favour of fired Palestinian Deutsche Welle journalist a ‘relief’, says lawyer, 7 September 2022

Middle East Monitor, DW’s sacking of Palestinian reporter: MEMO in conversation with Giovanni Fassina, 7 September 2022

The Electronic Intifada, Court orders Deutsche Welle to reinstate second Palestinian journalist, 6 September 2022

The New Arab, Germany: Berlin court rules DW firing of Palestinian journalist not legally justified, 6 September 2022

Middle East Monitor, German court rules sacking of Palestinian journalist using IHRA was unlawful, 6 September 2022

Al Jazeera, German court rules Palestinian ex-DW journalist sacking unlawful, , 5 September 2022

The Left Berlin, Palestinian Journalist fired from Deutsche Welle seeks justice: Trial report, Emily Baumgartner, 21 July 2022

+972 Magazine, ‘All the questions were about Israel’: Inside Deutsche Welle’s purge of Arab journalists, Hebh Jamal and Lena Obermaier, 5 May 2022

Novara Media, German State Broadcaster Fires Seven Arab Journalists in Supposed Antisemitism Purge, Rivkah Brown, 16 February 2022

Jewish Currents, Deutsche Welle Firings Set Chilling Precedent for Free Speech in Germany, Alex Kane, 16 February 2022

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