Germany’s Spiegel TV’s reporting on clan crime in the country has been deemed “racist” by a media group because it focused on Arab and Middle-Eastern criminal groups. The New German Media Professionals awarded Spiegel TV the “Golden Potato” award for portraying migrants in a negative light, claiming there was too much focus on the groups according to German news outlet Junge Freiheit.
“The bottom line is that the reporting on organized crime in the German media and especially on Spiegel TV is distorted, stigmatized and racist,” the German pro-migrant media group stated.
One of their complaints is that Spiegel TV allegedly restricts its reports on organized crime almost exclusively to clans. This would give the impression that “mafia-like associations in Germany are primarily Arab families or Romani”. The Federal Criminal Police Office statistics show that only 8 percent of organized crime is attributable to clan crime.
However, where clans are active, such as in Berlin and North-Rhine Westphalia, they account for a disproportionate amount of crime. Berlin’s chief prosecutor, Ralph Knispe, said this year that clans are a big part of Berlin’s crime problem, with police seizing 77 of their properties in an effort to choke them financially.
Other prominent criminal groups in Germany include Vietnamese, Chechen, Albanians, Russians, and there is a wide network of Italian Mafia associates operating a swell. German biker gangs also contribute to some of the organized crime in the country, but Germans represent a very small share of organized crime relative to their large share of the population.
According to the Irish Times, there are up to 200,000 people operating in Arab clan structures in Germany, although many of them are not active in criminality. The clan groups are also responsible for high-profile thefts, extortion, and gang-land murders. Criminality from the clans is also growing, with North-Rhine Westphalia — seen as a hot-spot for Middle-Eastern clans — seeing a 30 percent increase in clan crimes last year.
What constitutes a ‘clan’?
The New German Media Professionals also criticized Der Spiegel for what it claims is over-coverage of criminal clans, with the organization also claiming that the term “clan” is reserved for Arabs and Romani and no other groups. The organization also points to prominent German families that are treated differently, writing that “German families owning private businesses such as the Aldi clan, the Bertelsmann clan or the Hohenzollern clan, are never mentioned in this context.”
The argument fails to take a few distinctions into consideration. For one, those are private and legal businesses or aristocratic families. Aristocratic families may be subject to their own form of criticism, but they are not known for extortion, murder or drug trafficking. In countries such as Italy, there is also nobody referring to private family-owned businesses as mafias, as the mafia is a criminal organization and the family businesses are, quite clearly, an entirely different entity. Likewise, in Germany, it is unrealistic to refer to the Aldi brothers, which are small but wealthy family unit, as a criminal clan.
Furthermore, Middle-Eastern, Romani and Arab clans are unique in their structure. They are often sprawling and can involve up to 1,000 family members all working together whereas German biker gang members, for instance, are mostly unrelated to one another. In fact, there is no “clan” to speak of when it comes to German biker gangs, although there may be some loose family connections among some members, but certainly there have never been any reports of dozens or hundreds of family members working together within such gangs.
The Italian mafia, which indeed has earned its own criminal moniker, also often features extensive family connections among members, but historically speaking, most mafias also have never featured the same enormously extensive family networks present in Middle-Eastern and Arab clans. Many members also join the mafioso “families” as members but are totally unrelated to other members, whereas the Arab clans typically operating in Germany very rarely permit outsiders to join the clan.
The issue of clans has grown in prominence in Germany over the decades, with the Irish Times writing:
Berlin has about 20 families which can trace their arrival back to fleeing the Lebanon war in the mid-1970s. Some families have Lebanese roots, others were stateless families living there in refugee camps. Many arrived in Germany via East Berlin and applied for asylum in West Berlin or registered as students, and never left.
By the time the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, some 20,000 such refugees were arriving in the united capital annually. Many, stateless and unable to work legally, turned to crime.
Many of the stateless arrivals appeared in no statistics and police looked away, says criminologist Dorothee Dienstbühl, “because it involved ethnic minorities”.
Diesntbühl’s comment on the issue points to the fact that in many instances, police have shown reluctance to take on the clans over fears of racism.
In its report, the New German Media Professionals have also singled out reporting of other German media outlets on clan crime such as Bild, RTL, ntv, rbb, ZDF, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Tagesspiegel, Berliner Zeitung, and Welt, claiming that coverage of clans is racist and unfair.
Germany is not the only country facing the issue of Middle-Eastern clans. Recently, Sweden’s Deputy National Police Chief Mats Löfving said that 40 criminal clans are operating in the country. He said they migrated to Sweden for the purpose of obtaining power, making money, and further expanding their criminal syndicates.
“These clans have come to Sweden solely to organize crime. They work to create power, they have a great capacity for violence, and they want to make money. And they do that through drug crimes, violent crimes, and extortion,” said Löfving, who made remarks during an interview on Ekot’s Saturday program on Swedish Radio.