Open Letter from the University Rector to the Management and Editors in Chief of DIE ZEIT, FAZ, Tagesspiegel and Bremer Tageszeitungen AG

Ladies and Gentlemen:

On 16th April 2014 DIE ZEIT, FAZ, Tagesspiegel and Bremer Tagungszeitungen AG carried advertisements with the heading “Kreiter macht eiskalt weiter” [approx. Kreiter continues cold-blooded research]. As Rector of the University of Bremen I feel compelled to express my incomprehension and indignation at the appearance of these advertisements.

Only recently, following litigation lasting several years, a high court ruling confirmed the importance of the research involving experiments on macaques conducted by Professor Kreiter, a member of the University of Bremen, and found it to be in accordance with ethical standards. It is therefore outrageous to defame Professor Kreiter in such a way and to state he is conducting research in cold-blood. Rather, with judicial approval he is leading a research project strictly in accordance with the statutory duties of a German university.
The advertisements contain a number of utterly false allegations. For instance, the methods employed by Professor Kreiter, which are subject to constant inspection and evaluation within the competitive context of acquiring third-party funding, are defamed as being antiquated and pseudo-scientific. The University of Bremen objects most strongly to this blatant misrepresentation.

The advertisement is objectionable above all, though, because it offends the human dignity of a member of my university. The wording implies that in leading animal experiments Professor Kreiter is to be considered inhuman. Such a marginalization and dehumanization of Professor Kreiter’s person exceeds the limits of admissible public opinion forming.

The responsibility for such an attack on human dignity cannot be seen merely as a legal question of rights of the press. The issue of ethical responsibility in this case is addressed to you as the persons responsible for accepting the advertisement and allowing it to be published. As members of the Verlegerverband [Association of press publishers] you subscribe to the voluntary self-regulation of the press and are subsequently bound to the press codex. Article 1 of the codex states that “the protection of human dignity” is among the highest priorities the press must uphold. This Article of the Press Codex must clearly also apply to advertisements containing statements for which the editorial staff cannot be held responsible. The protection of human dignity is indivisible. In a democratic society governed by the rule of law such an attack on a person‘s human dignity should not to be tolerated in newspapers like yours.

I have always perceived your newspapers as critical monitors of societal developments, as institutions of public responsibility. I sincerely trust this will continue to be the case and appeal to you in future not to accept for publication any such advertisements that so blatantly offend against the human dignity of persons.

Yours truly,

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernd Scholz-Reiter
- Rector of the University of Bremen -

Mann mit Brille an einem Schreibtisch.
Professor Bernd Scholz-Reiter