Germany | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2007

2007 Scores

Press Status


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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Germany’s media remained free and vibrant in 2006, even as the country continued to battle over issues concerning access to information. The constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of the press, although there are exceptions for hate speech, Holocaust denial, and Nazi propaganda. Freedom of information legislation finally went into force in January 2006, containing numerous exemptions and requiring the payment of high fees in advance of every request. The press was critical of the government throughout the year and extensively covered Germany’s alleged participation in or knowledge of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s detention and transfer of terrorist suspects. In October, the private newspaper Bild widely circulated pictures that appear to show German soldiers in Afghanistan posing with a skull, which initiated investigations into the incidents.

In March, journalist Bruno Schirra and the head of the foreign section of the Swiss weekly SonntagsBlick, Johannes von Dohnanyi, were charged with “complicity in divulging a state secret”; but their case has yet to go to trial. Schirra is alleged to have divulged information about the al-Qaeda network contained in a confidential German police report that was passed to him by von Dohnanyi. In 2005, the newsroom of Cicero magazine and Schirra’s home were raided under the authorization of Interior Minister Otto Schily, who again cited “betraying state secrets” as the rationale. German journalists protested widely against the raid and there has not been a similar case in 2006.

In May, the German Parliament posted on its website part of a report revealing that the country’s external intelligence service had been spying on journalists. The post was in reaction to the 2005 scandal involving journalists who were paid by the federal intelligence agency to spy on their colleagues. After singer Robbie Williams imposed restrictions on photographers while on tour, German media boycotted his concerts. In 2005, journalists were concerned about proposed restrictions on media coverage of the 2006 World Cup that included mandatory clearance checks on journalists before they could be accredited to report on matches from the stadium. But all of these restrictions were eventually lifted prior to the event. There were no attacks on the press in Germany in 2006.

The private media are diverse and independent. Each of the 16 regional governments 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. Only a handful of national papers are published. 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. The internet is open and largely unrestricted and was accessed regularly by over 60 percent of the population in 2006. However, German law bans internet access to the aforementioned prohibited material. Many search engines in Germany have subscribed to the Voluntary Self-Control for Multimedia Service Providers association, filtering websites based on a list created by Germany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons.