Breaking Taboos What are journalists allowed to do, and what not? What ethical responsibilities do they bear?
In August 1988, the Gladbeck hostage drama unfolded. Two men, Hans-Jürgen Rösner and Dieter Degowski, held up a bank in Gladbeck in the district of Recklinghausen on August 16th, 1988. They could not be arrested at the scene. Instead, a three-day odyssey began that involved multiple hostages, with the bank robbers killing two people along the way. They were pursued not only by the police but also by countless journalists, photographers and camera crews. Some reporters conducted themselves with caution or tried to calm the situation. The majority, however, allowed themselves to get carried away with sensationalist interviews and live recordings – thus crossing moral boundaries. Some journalists started chases and interfered with police work. Others ignored the safety of the hostages and provoked the perpetrators into threatening gestures. They showed no hesitancy towards the criminals, who were thus able to take advantage of television and radio for their own purposes. These journalists were complicit in the escalation of the hostage drama. To this day, Gladbeck is regarded as an unprecedented example of irresponsibility and sensationalism in the media.