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German ambassador Meier-Klodt: There is a problem if we let nationalism, populism separate us through fake news

German ambassador in Bucharest Cord Meier-Klodt said on Tuesday that if the European societies allow nationalism and populism to separate by means of fake news, then they “really have a problem, a much bigger problem than sporadic political lies.”

“We have a problem if we allow nationalism and populism to further separate us and divide our societies through fake news, a much greater problem than sporadic political lies. That is why it must equally become a priority to us, diplomats and journalists, to fight strongly against such tendencies with the appropriate levers and with everything we professionally have in what we might call – our cabinet,” the diplomat said at a Romanian-German media conference called “Fake news – a danger to democracy?.”

The 5th edition of the Romanian-German media conference is designed for an exchange of ideas and experience between media representatives of Romania and Germany. The event was organized by the German Embassy in Bucharest, in co-operation with Germany’s Deutsche Welle public international broadcaster.

Meier-Klodt spoke of a “reinforcement” of what he called the “immune system” in the current social context.

“We cannot prevent the fact that we are surrounded, right now, in the flu season, by all sorts of viruses and bacteria. We cannot simply decide to stay home, so we need to strengthen our immune system. That regards each of us and the society, and we need to prepare it to deal with the various attacks,” he said, according to Agerpres.

One of the challenges, the ambassador added, is to maintain a united Europe.

“A Europe whose strength derives from diversity can only operate in a consensus on common denominators, unity in diversity, at least in relation to the European set of values,” Meier-Klodt said.

“We got illuminated about fake news yesterday and today in the Romanian press,” he said, mentioning Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’s statement on Tuesday.

Meier-Klodt pointed out that “fake news is not a new phenomenon.” “Even if this impression could easily be created, given the current debates about the post-truth era; intentional untruths have always been part of political communication. The great [Otto von] Bismarck is quoted saying people never lie so much as before an Election, during a war, or after a hunt,” the German ambassador said.

“I do not believe that fake news in itself is a danger to democracy as such; it depends on the medium in which it is created and disseminated – social polarisation, mutual mistrust and the tendency towards a conflict-generating struggle initially provides the breeding ground where fake news puts down roots, and it can break the social bond in the long run,” Meier-Klodt explained.

Romanian President Iohannis on Tuesday spoke about the “fake news” phenomenon in the current context.

“This is what happens when a criminal offender reaches at the top of the country, it’s a trivial thing. And this offender, Dragnea, who has perched up on the top of his party and the state is making progress. Unfortunately not with the quality of public policy, not in the field of the rule of law, but with fake news. What he has presented is what today is called fake news. That used to be called lies, pure and simple; piles upon piles of PSD lies. (…) And if we want to talk about what happened yesterday, I cannot but mention the suitcases,” Iohannis said at the Cotroceni Presidential Palace on Tuesday.

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