1) Hospital emergency: Patients in need are left alone
In Germany there are half a million people who are dependent on professional carers in their daily lives. When they stay in hospital they have to do without this help. Moreover, German clinics, with their severe shortage of nursing staff, are not equipped to deal with the needs of chronically ill or disabled patients. The results: meals are cleared away too early, inacceptable behaviour is treated by tranquilizers. Social organisations have been fighting for years to put an end to this deplorable state of affairs. As a result of their pressure, a law was passed in the summer of 2009 which has, however, only solved the problem for very few patients. Neither the state of affairs nor the law and the criticism of it have been covered by the media.
2) Psychiatric hospitals: German laws violate UN Convention
In Germany, people of whom medical experts think that they present a danger either to themselves or to others can be forced to go into psychiatric clinics. However, the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities allows compulsory hospitalisation and treatment only if someone violates criminal law. The convention has been valid in Germany since 2009 but, in this point, has wrongfully been put into national law with the intention of maintaining practice. This behaviour has been criticised by human rights lawyers and interest groups of patients. The media show, in the main, no interest in the subject.
3) War reporting diverts attention from civilian measures for conflict resolution
Civilian measures for dealing with conflicts, as an alternative to military intervention, are rarely a matter for discussion in the media, although these measures often bring peace to areas of crisis. Good examples of this are the Nepal conflict and the process of the Baltic states leaving the Soviet Union. As Germany commits itself more and more frequently to military actions worldwide in areas of crisis, the civilian alternatives should also be made public.
4) Illegal police violence
Even in Germany, a State of Law, there can be violent police attacks on people. These cases are rarely made public, as the culprits are investigated by their own colleagues. Most court cases are abandoned because policemen do not testify against each other but, apart from the victim, are the only witnesses. The media report isolated cases but the lack of an independent committee of enquiry is not mentioned.
5) Church finances not controlled
Religious institutions under public jurisdiction – as, for example, many Catholic monasteries in Bavaria without an affiliated business – are exempted from tax and are therefore not controlled by the tax office. They are automatically considered trustworthy. This makes it possible to use faked donation receipts and evade tax without anyone noticing. The media tend to ignore the lack of financial supervision and these potential tax loopholes.
6) Iodine additives not always declared
A strong lobby of salt and pharmacy companies propagate iodine additives in food. Nevertheless, approximately 10 percent of the Germans suffer from iodine intolerance, whereas sicknesses induced by the lack of iodine are declining. It is also suspected that too much iodine has a worsening effect on autoimmune diseases of the thyroid gland. Often, the addition of iodine does not have to be declared on food packaging. This makes it very difficult to avoid iodine. The media rarely report on this lack of consumer choice.
7) Patents for human genes and gene sequences
Decoded human genes and gene sequences such as genes that contribute to high blood pressure or breast cancer may be patented. The monopoly of individual patent owners hinders competitive firms in the development of their own pharmaceutics and makes independent research expensive. There can also be disadvantages for patients, as forms of treatment not requiring a license are preferred by the medical insurance companies for economic reasons. Comprehensive reporting on the chances, risks and consequences of gene patenting does not take place.
8. Rejection of sign language in schools for the deaf
Sign language is taught in very few German schools for the deaf. Around 80,000 Germans are deaf. Scientists have been arguing for decades about whether the deaf should learn their own language system or not. Most teachers of the deaf assume that the mastery and use of sign language exclude their pupils from society. Critics, on the other hand, fear that without the use of sign language the deaf could be inhibited in their mental development as only 30% of spoken language can be lip read. Very few people even know of the existence of this debate.
9) Germany is a leading power in exporting arms
For many years Germany has been one of the world’s biggest exporters of weapons and armaments. In spite of an allegedly restrictive licensing practice, armed conflicts make use of German weapons. They are delivered to countries with a problematic human rights status such as Georgia, Darfur and Afghanistan. Only in exceptional cases do the media undertake the painstaking research into this complex and elusive subject.
10) Building and renovation of houses without waste disposal problems
Even after the prohibition of the cancer-inducing building material asbestos, many materials are still used in building and renovation which present a problem for human beings and for the environment. Many chemicals in floor and wall insulations for example cause allergic reactions. For many synthetic insulation materials such as polystyrene there are natural alternatives like flax, hemp or wool. People are encouraged to insulate their houses without any public discussion about long-term consequences caused by synthetic materials. The disposal problem of these is, at best, analyzed in the specialist media or in special supplements.
Prof. Dr. Horst Pöttker
Director of the Inititiave News Enlightenment
Institut für Journalistik
phone: 0231/755 41 17
fax: 0231/755 55 83