Added: Steffen Schrack - Date: 18.03.2022 02:44 - Views: 12750 - Clicks: 1441
A colleague had sent her a link to a Facebook post that was circulating online. It was time, he wrote, to break the silence. Then she saw that several people had written that the same thing had happened to them. A few weeks later, she ran into Thomas Vorreyer, a political reporter at Vice Germanyand learned that he had seen the post and was also investigating. The two journalists decided to combine their efforts. Several of the men were young, lacked German citizenship, and did not have health insurance. They included in-depth stories of abuse allegations from five different men—changing their names to protect them from legal repercussions—and corroborated their s.
They also disclosed that the doctor was the subject of a criminal investigation opened in ; the trial will take place later this year. Instead he sent a blanket denial of the allegations through his lawyer, and instructed the journalists not to quote from his reply. The doctor adopted the same tactic when I reached out to him during my own reporting, and declined to provide a response for publication. Both media companies were forced to take the articles down. The investigation had to remain offline for good, unless an appeal could be won. The doctor has also taken legal action against two outlets— Der Spiegel and Queer.
And posts on online doctor review portals mentioning abuse allegations against him have disappeared. But because the reporting around him has not used his full name, when you Google Jessen, all you are likely to see are links to his private practice and profiles of his work in German media and in the New York Times. Today, Jessen is still a practicing HIV specialist. In an era of MeToo reckoning, how is it possible that the voices of so many people have been silenced?
One man told the reporters that, during the ordeal, he sat still and waited for it to be over. He needed his medicine. I n the s, when people started dying, St. In the middle of St. In mid-July, the memorial was quiet. I had come to St. Many doctors did not want to treat people living with HIV; others were interested in them only as research subjects. Bysome 9, Berliners had been diagnosed with HIV, but there were few doctors with specialized HIV knowledge, and, as was the case elsewhere, homophobia mixed with stigma to create a powerful barrier to care.
Jessen quickly gained a reputation for providing a nonjudgmental approach to sexual health and delivering high-quality medical care. His clinic expanded to include general and sports medicine, as well as other infectious diseases such as hepatitis. If you were living with HIV in the first decades of the disease, your relationship with your doctor was extremely important: the early drugs approved to treat HIV came with high levels of toxicity and severe side effects, requiring regular monitoring.
In the early years of the epidemic, the price of HIV treatment without insurance could easily reach the equivalent of several thousand euros a month. InJessen started running his own clinical research trials; as a result, he had access to new versions of medicines before they hit the market. Jessen championed the early use of antiretroviral treatment for HIV, which put him at the vanguard of medicine the World Health Organization adopted this recommendation for all HIV patients only in He became well known outside Germany, traveling and giving talks at the International aids Conferences.
As Jessen rose to global fame, though, troubling stories began to emerge. Patients reported to LGBTQ and HIV organizations, as well as within the gay community, that Jessen had touched them inappropriately and in some cases sexually assaulted them. The reports often followed a similar chronology: a patient would go in for an HIV test or a sinus infection, and Jessen would allegedly tell him that he needed to perform a full-body examination or a rectal exam, giving no medical justification.
According to the BuzzFeed and Vice articles, Jessen sometimes allegedly kissed patients, masturbated them, or, in one case, tried to force oral sex. In June, as Berlin loosened its coronavirus lockdown, I visited their building, on a quiet, tree-lined side street in Charlottenburg, to talk to a counselor who has worked at the center for more than twenty years. The counselor, who asked not to be named because he had been ly threatened by Jessen and his lawyer and fears legal repercussions, told me he repeatedly heard from clients coming through his office that Jessen had abused them or acted inappropriately.
As a result, the organization does not refer any patients to Jessen. The center is also featured in the BuzzFeed and Vice investigation as one of several LGBTQ organizations that have tried to take action against the doctor. Inthe counselor said, representatives from the Schwulenberatung confronted Jessen and his brother, who is also a doctor and co-owner of the practice; Jessen promised to change. I asked the counselor if the men who told him about Jessen fit a certain profile. A nonprofit worker interviewed by Der Spiegel said that in some cases the men sold sex, putting them at higher risk for HIV and in need of testing or treatment.
Some had recently immigrated and did not hold German citizenship. The men said they had little to no understanding of the German legal system and did not think they would be believed if they went to the police. A doctor is always in a position of power over a patient; all of these men had even less. The lack of other HIV practices in Berlin added to the imbalance.
He also said he had started seeing a therapist. Inthe public prosecutor brought charges against the doctor on behalf of five victims. In Germany, sexual assault cases typically see a court date within a year. The case is complex, involving multiple witnesses, and was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the delay, at least one of the allegations risks no longer being admissible in court. Untilalmost nothing had been published in the German mainstream media about sexual assault in the gay community.
I nas the police were investigating Jessen, a public debate on sexism took hold in Germany. The MeToo campaign in the US, which gained widespread media attention inraised critical questions around workplace relationships and other power dynamics, and drew attention to the pervasiveness of sexual assault.
In Germany, the movement was more subdued. Some high-profile media stories did come out, the first of which was a January investigation by the newspaper Die Zeit detailing the stories of three women who accused film director Dieter Wedel of sexual misconduct, including one allegation of rape.
Der Spiegel also pursued MeToo stories; in Maythe paper exposed a culture of widespread sexual harassment and abuse of power in the TV industry, including sexual assault allegations against movie executive Gebhard Henke. MeToo in Germany unleashed an intense backlash. Although Die Zeit won the prestigious Leuchtturm-Preis Lighthouse Award for its Wedel story, the publication received an outpouring of angry mail from its older, mostly conservative subscribers.
We had all these stupid debates: Is flirting impossible now? Can a man still talk to a woman alone? Can a colleague say that you have a nice dress? BuzzFeed Germany took a less gun-shy approach to MeToo than did some of its media counterparts. The company launched its entertainment section inthen opened a small newsroom inbringing on Daniel Drepper as editor in chief. Drepper and his team exposed abuses of power in industries overlooked by MeToo. They reported on how strawberries in German supermarkets are harvested by migrant workers in Spain who experience repeated sexual assault, and how Ukrainian women are lured to Germany under false promises and then trapped in exploitative working conditions.
Drepper credits BuzzFeed management for being supportive of these slower, more resource-intensive investigations. We could do what we wanted as long as we made an impact. They gave us a lot of autonomy. As soon as they began reporting, the story very quickly unfolded.
Even though rumors about Jessen had been circulating since the s, media outlets had not caught hold of the story.
The German constitution articulates a right to privacy for each individual. In a separate article, it protects free speech and the freedom of the press. These principles often bump up against each other. But there were additional considerations. In criminal trials, German law ps innocence unless a guilty verdict is handed down by a judge. This is similar to the US legal system; however, in Germany, the presumption of innocence is also applied to press coverage.
Precisely because the articles had presented such a massive amount of detailed evidence against Jessen, the judges said, no reader could come to the conclusion that he was innocent.
For Drepper, the decision was fairly straightforward. Lawyers for the media companies agreed that the article met the criteria for suspicion reporting, but they ultimately decided on a compromise.
Since the case was still making its way to trial, they would publish only the first name and last initial—this would identify Jessen to the HIV, medical, and gay communities, but not necessarily to everyone he came in contact with, preserving some semblance of privacy. The journalists were also reasonably certain that publishing their investigation meant they would be sued, since Jessen had aggressively gone after victims who spoke publicly about their experience, and since other publications had experienced reprisal.
Despite being a relatively small newsroom, BuzzFeed Germany had a generous budget for legal fees and had already worked with a top law firm in Berlin, so they were in the unique position of being able to take on the risk. On September 10,five days after the first article appeared, Eisenberg filed the first of several complaints in the Berlin regional court. Eisenberg is well known to the court: although he could have filed suit in any regional court in Germany, the Berlin court, in addition to being his home turf, is known to be sympathetic to press privacy violation cases.
A court ruling would follow. Other published MeToo investigations had had less—the Die Zeit story on Dieter Wedel contained three testimonies of alleged abuse, and the Der Spiegel investigation into Gebhard Henke contained six. They immediately got to work preparing for the hearing, compiling a trove of documentation: timelines and folders of s, letters, WhatsApp messages, social media posts, and interview transcripts. The journalists prepared to turn over most of their reporting and gather sworn affidavits from people who had appeared anonymously in the stories.
This meant that Jessen could now see the identities of the men who had spoken out against him. BuzzFeed lawyer Jan Hegemann had briefed them on what to expect, but Eisenberg was a knowledgeable, and formidable, adversary. Both Eisenberg and Hegemann are well established in media law circles. Despite their similar experience, the two men have opposing styles in court: Hegemann exhibits a courteous and professorial approach he also teaches law at the Free University of Berlinwhile Eisenberg enjoys more notoriety—inJulian Assange hired him to go after a former WikiLeaks colleague—and is famously bullish.
About two dozen people were in attendance at the proceedings. In addition to the journalists, editors, and lawyers of BuzzFeed and Vicethere were some media colleagues and LGBTQ nonprofit workers, including the Schwulenberatung counselor. Jessen did not appear. Eisenberg wore a leather motorcycle jacket; he chose to sit for the proceedings, leaning back in his chair with his legs spread wide.
Hegemann, who wore a suit, gave his arguments standing up.
He pointed his index finger at the journalists and accused them of lying. The argument that Eisenberg presented at the hearing was built around the idea that his client was the subject of a kind of conspiracy. He attacked the credibility of alleged victims based on information he had pulled from their medical records, calling them drug users and prostitutes; in the case of one man, Eisenberg revealed that Jessen had treated him for multiple STIs, using the disclosure to contend that the doctor could not possibly have been attracted to such a patient.
The judges themselves seemed confused regarding certain details of the story. When the judges finally brought the hearing to a close it was clear they would rule in favor of Jessen. In regard to the four legal criteria for suspicion reporting, the judges said that BuzzFeed had met three of the conditions: it had enough evidence to publish; Jessen had been given adequate time to respond to the allegations; and the case was in the public interest.
But on the fourth criterion—the obligation to maintain presumption of innocence—the judges said the journalists had failed.
While it was disappointing for them that their story had to remain offline, they were more worried about telling the men who had trusted them what had happened in the hearing. They thought also of the new people who had contacted them with allegations about Jessen—and whose stories would have to remain unpublished, too. For Jessen, on the other hand, the day was a double victory. A s began, the novel coronavirus started to spread across Europe, and Jessen continued to hold a public position as a medical expert. In the meantime, the economic fallout hit BuzzFeed ; the company laid off 5.
Still, the two journalists do not regret their decision to publish the investigation, including using a partial name for Jessen in the articles. More than a year after their articles were banned, they would have another chance to argue for their right to publish them. Jessen had shown up this time, dressed in a black suit and short black boots, carting a pile of manila folders. The reporters looked up as he entered but appeared composed; masks shielded their facial expressions.
As the presiding judge, Susanne Tucholski, began her opening statement, it became evident that she would take a more measured perspective on the case than had the judges of the hearing. Tucholski acknowledged that the court was facing a decision without precedent in Germany.
But Tucholski expressed misgivings about the same criterion flagged by the lower court—whether or not the articles were prejudicial—and singled out the narratives of the violations as problematic. Ultimately, she said, it was unlikely anyone could read the narratives and think that the doctor was innocent. At one point he slammed his hand on the table.
Jessen occasionally looked over his shoulder and surveyed the room.German Columbia sex
email: [email protected] - phone:(474) 805-8910 x 2283
Subscribe to JPASS