Germans Are Furious That Media Identified Germanwings Co-Pilot

Mar 27, 2015 at 3:05 PM ET

German social media erupted after authorities published the name of the co-pilot who crashed a Germanwings jet into the French Alps this week, killing 150 people, including himself. But the anger isn’t directed at Andreas Lubitz, the 27-year-old co-pilot — it’s aimed at the German media outlets that chose to publish his name and picture.

“You are disgusting,” fumed one Facebook user on Friday. 

“Perverted pig,” wrote another. 

“Scum of the earth!” said a third.

In the U.S., it’s standard operating procedure to release the names of people who are suspected of committing a crime. But in Germany, where people are far more sensitive about the line between public and private, that is not done. Critics in the country have cast the move as a reckless rush to judgment, and accuse the media of exploiting the tragedy before all the facts have been established. Others believe that the co-pilot’s family could now face retaliation for the crash.

Some have also bristled over the decision to publicize Lubitz’s private medical history, which shows he had a history of depression and psychological problems. In fact, the co-pilot had been hiding an illness from his employers that made him “unfit to work,” according to a doctor’s note authorities discovered in Lubitz’s home on Friday.  

The backlash sent several German publications into a defensive crouch on Friday. The newspaper Bild, which published a full-length photo of Lubitz on its front page, issued a detailed explanation for its decision on Facebook. Meanwhile, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, offered its own editorial to sooth tensions.

“I’ve never experienced a debate like this,” said Mathias Müller von Blumencron, the editor-in-chief for digital media at the Frankfurt-based paper. “I think many people are genuinely scared, because this is so inexplicable.”

Translation: I find no words for the title of the  this morning—except deep contempt for this f—-ng place.