Kramp-Karrenbauer faces backlash over ‘censorship’ calls

Christian Democratic Union (CDU) party chairwoman Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer speaks during a press conference after the beginning of a CDU board meeting following the European Parliament election and the regional election in the German federal state of the city Bremen in Berlin, Germany, 27 May 2019. [EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN]

A broad debate should be held on the possible regulation of political views expressed online, the leader of Germany’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (AKK), said on Monday (27 May). But she faced an immediate backlash, with some accusing her of advocating censorship.

The news comes after the CDU were hit badly in the European elections, falling behind by seven percentage points compared to their 2014 results. The CDU and its sister party, CSU, polled at 28% while the Greens surged to second place at 21%.

Ahead of Sunday’s vote, the CDU had come in for criticism for their lack of emphasis on climate issues by well-known German YouTuber “Rezo,” in a video entitled ‘The Destruction of the CDU.”

The clip soon went viral, with a coalition of dozens of other German YouTube stars banding together to support the cause, prompting AKK to suggest that there should be a framework in place to regulate political expression in the context of elections.

Last Friday, the group released a support video, imploring young German voters not to support the CDU or the SPD, due to their lack of momentum on climate change issues. Deutsche Welle report that the YouTubers cited the “irreversible destruction of our planet” as a “predictable result of the current policies” of the CDU/SPD coalition.

Speaking in Berlin on Monday, Kramp-Karrenbauer said: “What would actually happen in this country if, say, 70 newspapers decided just two days before the election to make the joint appeal: ‘Please don’t vote for the CDU and SPD’?”

“What are the rules that apply to opinions in the analog sphere? And which rules should apply in the digital sphere?” she added.

Kramp-Karrenbauer faced an immediate backlash for her comments. Christian Lindner, leader of Germany’s Free Democratic Party,  said he could “hardly believe” her comments, while Niema Movassat, Bundestag member for Die Linke, called Kramp-Karrenbauer’s stance an “unprecedented attack on freedom of expression.”

Kramp-Karrenbauer responded strongly to the accusations.

“It is absurd to insinuate to me that I want to regulate expressions of opinion,” she wrote on Twitter.

“Freedom of expression is a great asset in democracy. What we need to talk about, however, are rules that apply in the election campaign.”

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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