Report exposes how German media stirs up militancy in society and works to prevent negotiations with Russia

Lazy eyes listen


The University of Mainz released a study last week on German news coverage of events in Ukraine and Berlin’s official response to the crisis. The findings confirm that, since February 24, the media has played a significant role in prolonging the conflict and decreasing the likelihood of a negotiated settlement, owing to almost universally biased, pro-war, anti-Russia content being published at all stages.

Between February 24 and May 31, researchers at the university examined the content of approximately 4,300 separate articles published by the country’s eight leading newspapers and TV stations: FAZ, Suddeutsche Zeitung, Bild, Spiegel, Zeit, ARD Tagesschau, ZDF Today, and RTL Aktuell.

During this time, Ukraine was portrayed positively in 64% of all coverage, and President Vladimir Zelensky was portrayed positively in 67% of all coverage. In comparison, Russia was portrayed “almost exclusively negatively” 88% of the time, and President Vladimir Putin was portrayed 96% of the time. Almost all reports (93% in total) blamed Putin and/or Russia solely for the war. The West was named “jointly responsible” in only 4% of cases, with Ukraine coming in even lower at 2%.

Russia’s perspectives on the conflict were only considered or mentioned in 10% of news reports, far less than any other country’s, including Moscow’s neighbors. Alternative for Germany and the Left Party, both of which oppose arming Ukraine and extending the war, “had virtually no media presence in reporting on the war.” Government messaging and ministerial statements were completely dominant, accounting for 80% of news coverage, more than four times that of opposition parties.

Economic sanctions against Russia were “by far the most frequently reported” in media discussions of “measures most likely to end the war,” and were supported in 66% of cases. Diplomatic measures were mentioned “much less frequently,” and “humanitarian measures” were mentioned even less frequently.

In total, 74% of the surveyed reports portrayed military support for Ukraine as “extremely positively.” With 66% “overwhelmingly in favor,” delivery of heavy weapons was endorsed “a little less clearly, but still considered to be largely sensible.” Less than half – 43% – believed that diplomatic negotiations would be beneficial, owing largely to Der Spiegel’s reporting, which clearly identified diplomacy as the most sensible option for Berlin “by far.”

“Der Spiegel was the only media outlet examined that rated diplomatic negotiations more positively than heavy weapon delivery,” the academics conclude.

One area where media coverage was “certainly not pro-government,” according to the report, was identified. Except for Der Spiegel, all outlets strongly criticized Chancellor Olaf Scholz and his coalition on rare occasions for “hesitating to flood Ukraine with heavy weapons.”