Freedom of the Press

Germany

Germany

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

16

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

6

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

5

The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, although there are exceptions for hate speech, Holocaust denial, and Nazi propaganda as well as for obscene, violent, or "dangerous" material on the internet. Since a 2003 Constitutional Court ruling, police can trace journalists' phone calls in "serious" cases, where "serious" is not clearly defined. German privacy laws at times restrict press freedom. A 2004 European Court of Human Rights ruling in Princess Caroline of Monaco v. Germany extended a public figure's right to privacy to include public places, overturning a long-standing Constitutional Court practice. In July 2005, after nearly seven years of political conflict and protracted delays, the German Parliament voted to pass a federal Freedom of Information Act, which will take effect at the start of 2006. Despite guaranteeing a general right of access to government information, the act also contains several strong exceptions.

Nevertheless, some worrying developments for press freedom and freedom of expression have emerged in relation to heightened awareness of terrorism issues. In November 2005, the Federal Intelligence Agency (BND) confirmed that it spied on journalists in 1993 and 1994. The announcement came just weeks after Interior Minister Otto Schily came under pressure for authorizing a raid on the newsroom of Cicero magazine after it had published information from a secret Federal Criminal Investigation Office (BKA) report. The writ accused Cicero journalist Bruno Schirra of "betraying state secrets" after he had written an article exposing an Iraqi insurgent who used extensive quotes from a BKA document. Police raided not only Cicero's editorial offices, but also Schirra's home; however, the BKA document was never found. Allegations have also been made that BND officers spied on investigative journalist Erich Schmidt-Eenboom (who in 2003 published a book on the secret services), his colleagues at the Weilheim Institute, and members of his family.

The 10 Muhammad cartoons published by a Danish newspaper in September 2005 triggered a vivid and ongoing discussion about the proper balance between the constitutionally guaranteed rights of press freedom, freedom of the arts, and freedom of religion. Most of the big dailies in Germany reprinted at least one of the offending cartoons. The restrictions on media coverage of the 2006 World Cup, to be held in Germany, started to cause concern among journalists. The German Journalists Union criticized security plans that would reportedly require the federal criminal police office, the BKA, and the internal secret service to run clearance checks on journalists before they could be accredited to report on matches from stadiums.

The private media are diverse and independent. Each of the 16 regions is in charge of its own public radio and television broadcasters, and there are many private stations as well. The print press is dominated by numerous regional papers, but only a handful of national papers are published. In the past two decades, financial pressures have consolidated the private media sector; today, a small number of centralized editorial offices control most content, and only a few commercial groups, which are some of the largest in the world, dominate the media market. Internet access is open and largely unrestricted to more than half of the population with access. However, German law bans internet access to the aforementioned prohibited material, and the government has issued numerous ordinances against internet providers.