February 22, 2019

German TV terror drama asks public to deliver verdict


TV viewers across Europe have taken part in a interactive courtroom drama centred on a fictional act of terror.
The public was asked to judge whether a military pilot who downs a hijacked passenger jet due to be crashed into a football stadium is guilty of murder.
Viewers in Germany, Switzerland and Austria gave their verdict online or by phone. The programme was also aired in Slovenia and the Czech Republic.
The vast majority called for the pilot, Lars Koch, to be acquitted.
The show, Terror – Your Verdict, was broadcast by German network ARD and was an adaptation of a play by bestselling author Ferdinand von Schirach.
Germany debates freedom and safety
In the fictional plot, militants from an al-Qaeda offshoot hijack a Lufthansa Airbus A320 with 164 people on board and aim to crash it into a stadium packed with 70,000 people during a football match between Germany and England.
“If I don’t shoot, tens of thousands will die,” German air force Major Lars Koch says as he flouts the orders of his superiors and takes aim at an engine of the plane.
The jet crashes into a field, killing everyone on board.
“The viewer is yanked out of the passivity of television watching,” ARD programming chief Volker Herres told German newspaper Bild.
“He is actively called upon to become both an affected person and take a decision.”
‘Human dignity’
In Germany, 86.9% of the 609,000 viewers who voted believed Koch made the right decision. A similar proportion of viewers backed Koch in Austria and Switzerland.
Similar scenarios have been debated since the 2001 9/11 suicide attacks in the US.
Then US Vice-President Dick Cheney said later that shooting down the hijacked planes would have been justified to prevent greater loss of life.
However, in 2006 Germany’s constitutional court ruled that such action would violate Article One of its Basic Law, that human dignity was inviolable.
In a TV discussion programme broadcast after the drama, German ex-Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung argued that the lives of the plane passengers were already impossible to save, and that the spectators themselves had a right to human dignity. It was a case of extra-judicial emergency, he argued.
A former interior minister, Gerhart Baum, disagreed, insisting that the pilot should be found guilty of murder as the fate of the passengers was not certain and human lives could not be measured against each other.

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