Freelancer fired for tweets, said German broadcaster 'whitewashed' Tiananme

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Su Yutong via Twitter

German international public broadcaster Deutsche Welle fired blogger Su Yutong for tweeting about “internal issues” including a claim that the company wanted to “tone down” coverage of China, the New York Times reported.

In an e-mailed statement to iMediaEthics, Su characterized Sieren’s article as having “whitewashed and minimized”  the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, which she said was false given her interviews of “many witnesses,” victims and families. Su said she protested the column during a meeting for Deutsche Welle’s Chinese section and  brought a copy of a petition to top bosses. “Estimates of the death toll [at Tiananmen Square in 1989] range from several hundred to thousands,” according to CNN.

Su said she stands by her actions and published the confidential information because it was an important “public issue” in her view.

Calling her tweets a “breach of trust,” Deutsche Welle said in a statement that Su “spread internal and confidential information about DW and its editors on Twitter despite repeated requests to refrain from doing so.”

In her tweets she criticized another Deutsche Welle columnist, Frank Sieren, who on June 4 published a column on the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Su had tweeted criticism and “posted accounts of internal meetings held between Deutsche Welle directors and its Chinese-language staff, in which the staff is said to have been told to tone down its coverage,” according to the Times.

“I admit that I had a moment of hesitation to choose between the verbal order of the Program Director to keep it confidential, and value judgement,” Su wrote, “but I decided to publish it after consideration, because I recognized that this is a public issue which involves the purpose of journalism of Deutsche Welle.”

However, she added she didn’t expect to be fired and that she plans to take her firing to the courts. She said she wants Deutsche Welle to confirm to the public that the private information she tweeted was accurate and why she was told she didn’t “fit in this new direction” the Chinese section of the broadcaster was going.

Deutsche Welle spokesperson Johannes Hoffmann told the Times Su had been warned but was fired for tweeting confidential information.

“It’s just that she tweeted about internal issues about the Deutsche Welle in a way that no company in the world would tolerate. We warned her, and she continued to do it,” Hoffman told the Times.

When asked for further comment, Hoffman pointed iMediaEthics to Deutsche Welle’s press statement about the termination.

The press statement repeated that Su was fired for misconduct. The statement said Su was told on Aug. 19 that her contract with the company would end Dec. 31.

“In view of Su Yutong’s misconduct, DW has no choice but to dispense of her services with immediate effect,” Deutsche Welle added.

Deutsche Welle denied that her firing was “politically motivated.”

In her statement to iMediaEthics, Su said that she is looking for another position in Germany. “Unfortunately, DW does not appreciate me. In a fit of anger, it sacked a reporter who pursues journalistic professionalism while defending human dignity,” she wrote.

Su “has been exiled in Germany since 2010,” the Times noted. In her e-mail to iMediaEthics, she said she moved to Germany “because my safety was threatened as I became an ‘enemy of the state’ against the Chinese Communist government.”

Su recently wrote an open letter to Deutsche Welle’s director general Peter Limbourg, which the Times published Sept. 1, Su pointed out to iMediaEthics.  In that letter, she called for Limbourg, who will be in Beijing this month, to visit detained journalist Gao Yu, who has been a “contributor” to Deutsche Welle. She also asked him to tell the columnist Sieran, whose column about  Tiananmen Square she protested, about the criticism of his work.

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Freelancer fired for tweets, said German broadcaster ‘whitewashed’ Tiananmen Square

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