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Merkel party's battle with YouTubers escalates

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AFP Berlin
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's favoured successor plunged into a new storm Tuesday, with her apparent call for limits to free speech around elections stoking further anger rather than putting down a raging youth-led YouTube revolt.
Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer's call for "rules" for online media around election-time came after her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its centre-left coalition partner SPD suffered their worst scores in Sunday's European parliamentary vote.
The CDU, in particular, had been put on the back foot in the days leading up to the polls as 70 YouTube stars urged voters to punish the party for its failure to take adequate action to halt global warming.
Addressing the debacle on Monday, Kramp-Karrenbauer called for checks on the online influencers, saying that if 70 newspaper editors had made a concerted call to boycott parties ahead of an election, that would be classed "clearly as propaganda".
"The question is... what are rules from the analog realm and which rules should apply to the digital realm? "I'll tackle this discussion quite aggressively," said Kramp-Karrenbauer, or AKK as she is dubbed in Germany.
Her comments immediately unleashed a storm with #AKKRuecktritt (AKKresign), #annegate and #AKKgate making up the top three topics trending on Twitter in Germany.
Kramp-Karrenbauer then took to Twitter to defend her comments, saying it was "ridiculous to insinuate that I want to regulate expressions of opinion". "Freedom of opinion is a precious value in a democracy.
"What we have to talk about are rules that apply during elections," she wrote on Twitter.
But that only fanned the fires, with both leading media and political figures rounding in to remind her of Article five in the German constitution guaranteeing freedom of opinion, speech and writing.
"With her insulting musings on 'propaganda' and control of it, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer confirms the criticism of young YouTubers -- and reveals her authoritarian thinking," said Spiegel Online.
For the German Federation of Journalists (DJV), AKK's call was "not just nonsense but also a violation of the constitution".

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First Published: May 29 2019 | 12:30 AM IST

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