Germany: Press Scandal About Gustl Mollath

Part 2 of media research

by Ursula Prem

English Translation by courtesy of Frank Ludwig

In a media research article on Dec 15th 2012 I discussed the surprisingly parallel story lines presented in three reports of the German newspapers SPIEGEL, Die ZEIT and TAGESSPIEGEL, published almost simultaneously about the Gustl Mollath case. And I found four identical main messages in each of the reports:


* Gustl Mollath’s alleged mania is described as a fact throughout the articles

* Supporters and angry citizens are denounced as: upset mob

* All three newspaper articles state a conspiracy theory

* The authors attempt to cater to people’s diffuse fears of criminals



Current events show the extent of the scandal


In the meantime, the latest events illustrate that real conditions of some press media appear to be far worse than assumed in the first analysis: In fact, meanwhile it is hard to avoid denoting it as an utter press scandal, rarely seen more disgusting. For this reason, I’d like to expand on the case and reflect on new developments.


“Die ZEIT” writes on Dec 14th, 2012:


»Also the supporters of Gutl Mollath are investigating: They searched for a prominent lawyer for retrial. Apparently, they do not trust the prosecution’s assurance. Florian Streibl of the “Freien Wähler” party, has acquired lawyer Gerhard Strate from Hamburg. He has visited Gustl Mollath in the forensic psychiatry, carrying along three letters of attorney. – Gustl Mollath did not sign; even though Strate did not ask for money. Does Mollath in fact not want a retrial? Did he settle to serve as a martyr?«


What impression does this description leave to the impartial reader? – Obviously: Mollath must be mentally disturbed, as he, in his situation, lets an experienced prominent lawyer go, who was offering help. Is he possibly mentally ill? Or is he arrogant in a very unsympathetic way with just a small step missing to be considered dangerous? Everyone who is asking this question after reading this article, which is leaving the answer open in a very biased way, should be aware, that it is exactly the purpose of the article to portray Mollath in these dubious lights – as an unpredictable eccentric! The apparent intention is to sow doubt and change the public opinion to Mollath’s disadvantage. Experienced press professional know how to do this and, there are agents to book, who can open channels to the respective editor’s office. With some Google research one can find agencies, which openly offering these services.


Luckily for Mollath, newspaper “Süddeutsche Zeitung” (SZ) does not tire to critically question half-truths like the one above. It writes on Dec 20th, 2012:


»All nonsense, Mollath and Strate replied – astonished about “Die ZEIT”, since the letters of attorney was signed days before the publication. Mollath explained to SZ, he simply wanted to talk to his current lawyer from Munich, who is representing him for years, about an additional lawyer. “That is what honesty requires”, Mollath said, as his current lawyer has invested a lot of time in his case, in times when retrial seemed nearly impossible. In addition, Mollath wanted to gather information about Strate, as he knew only his name. This is what he also told Strate.«


Lawyer Gerhard Strate himself explained the event to me in this way:


»Mrs Rückert´s hint [Sabine Rückert, journalist and member of „Die ZEIT“- main editorial office] to the unsigned letters of attorney is particularly objectionable, as she confirmed during the conversation, which was conducted five days before the publication in „Die ZEIT”, to ask for authorization before publishing my quotes. As she did not cite me as source, she apparently seemed to feel released from the obligation for authorization. I only told her about the letters of attorney, as I considered Mollath´s desire to talk to his current lawyer before signing as a well-considered and a morally driven approach. I receive at least fifty/sixty letters of real or alleged innocents in German prisons or forensic clinics, where probably everyone would have signed immediately in a similar situation. The fact that Mollath did not do this immediately, distinguishes him in a special way.«


To a journalist, who does not care about set appointments, this highly reputable attitude of Mollath may feel strange. In any case, the portray in “Die ZEIT” leaves more than a bad taste to the reader, which leads to a mandatory question: cui bono? i.e., in who’s favour is such a bias? It is worth, to reflect on this in order to find the source of the campaign.


Again it was „Süddeutsche Zeitung“, which revealed a further curiosity on Dec 22nd.


“Die ZEIT” had reported on Dec 14th, 2012:


»Mollath was in their forensic department for exploration. There Mollath’s behaviour appeared bizarre to the stuff: Mollath refused to eat and wash himself or put on his shoes.«


Also SPIEGEL author Beate Lakotta had expanded and explained verbosely on Dec 19th, 2012:


»He refused to wash himself until he smelled which caused conflicts with other patients and he noted a phone number from a tube of washing soap, as he thought, people want to poison him. This and a lot more was documented in detail by Dr Leipziger in his assessment.«


When you read about the same event in “Süddeutsche Zeitung”, it clarifies Mollath’s behaviour:


»During the first days of his forced stay in Bayreuth Mollath pointed out, that, for years, he only uses curd soap because of various allergies, he is suffering from. As he did not get this soap, at first, he refused as a protest to wash himself. At the end of February 2005, the following was entered into the clinic files: Mollath conducts “his body hygiene now by himself (with curd soap)”. He now shows “a proper appearance”, drinks a lot of tea and mineral water, has frequent contact to another patient and joins board games in the recreation room”. What he lacked before, apparently was: a curd soap.«

And here I repeat my earlier question: cui bono? Who is benefiting from someone being trampled underfoot who is already lying on the ground? Who is so afraid of Gustl Mollath, who, allegedly, is only mentally ill, making strange assertions? – To be clear: Simply the power of this in unison press campaign, in my opinion, is worth the retrial of the case!


Further, the question arises whether such manner of reporting is compliant to the press codex of the German press council items: 1, 2, 3, 7, 9, 13 or 15.

>> Read Part l: The Case Gustl Mollath - The Time of Hyenas

>> Read German Version: Presseskandal um Gustl Mollath