World Cup: German TV Files Hate Speech Charges After Misogynist Comments

Courtesy of ZDF Sport
German soccer commentator Claudia Neumann

German network ZDF is taking two viewers to court over nasty online posts directed at sports reporter Claudia Neumann.

A German TV network is taking two viewers to court over nasty comments they posted attacking a female sports reporter during coverage of this year's World Cup soccer competition. Public broadcaster ZDF said it has filed charges of hate speech against two users who, in the channel's words, were “extremely derogatory” in their online comments toward Neumann, the first female reporter in Germany to provide live commentary for a World Cup match.

Neumann did color commentary for several World Cup matches and her performance was widely praised. But the 54-year-old reporter was also sharply criticized in some quarters, with several viewers posting mocking and misogynistic comments. 

"Clearly, a portion of the viewers have a problem with a women commenting on (men's) soccer,” said ZDF director Thomas Bellut, who defended Neumann's “professional” performance. ZDF has filed charges against two users for posts attacking Neumann that, in ZDF's opinion, violate Germany's anti-hate speech laws. Bellut said he hoped the move would have a “deterrent effect.”

ZDF did not go into specific details regarding the posts, except to say they involved defamation against Neumann and public calls to commit a crime against her. ZDF said it deleted the most offensive comments directed at Neumann posted on its website though several nasty comments, including one calling Neumann a “thunder c—,” were not removed. 

A survey carried out last week by the Civey group in Germany found that a majority of the more than 5,000 participants viewed female soccer commentators either “positively” or “very positively,” but 12 percent said they have a negative view of women talking on TV about soccer.