PETER FREITAG / DEPUTY CHAIRMAN OF THE GERMAN JOURNALISTS ASSOCIATION
“Journalists’ work is increasingly hampered. As in G20 summit in Hamburg nine journalists whose accreditation was withdrawn by the Federal Press Offi ce. But these journalists successfully defended themselves in the court. This shows that the press freedom is not bad in Germany. But cracks are growing. We’ll be awake!”
Not a long time ago, freedom of the press was a matter of course anchored in the rule of law in Germany. With a few exceptions, journalists were able to pursue their profession unhindered and hardly had to fear any obstacles or reprisals. Freedom of the press is one of the foundation pillars of our democracy, that was social consensus. And if it happened that there were attacks on press freedom, then these were at the latest fended off by the courts.
Those days are over. Th e pressure on journalists is steadily increasing and the high good of press freedom has to be defended again and again every single day. In parts of society, a media-hostile discourse is seen as “good taste”. Media professionals are insulted as “press pf lies” and disseminators of fake news, as passive agents of the political and economic establishment. Right-wing extremists are calling for rallies in front of the apartments of journalists in order to intimidate and silence them. Verbal attacks and attempts at intimidation are the order of the day at demonstrations by right-wing populists, corona deniers and other conspiracy theorists.
Journalists are increasingly being prevented from working by force. “Political demonstrations are the most dangerous place to work for journalists in Germany,” says the European Center for Press and Media Freedom. And although journalists make use of a constitutional right in this work, government agencies apparently do not see themselves in a position to enforce this right. Again and again police off icers stay passive, instead of helping the attacked, they encourage them to disappear from the scene – a declaration of bankruptcy by the rule of law.
But others are also targeting press freedom: Public figures and so-called aristocrats, for example, but also commercial enterprises. Th ey are increasingly trying to torpedo reporting with legal means. For the media law firms, a new business model was created as a side eff ect. But press freedom is increasingly becoming a precious commodity that one has to buy dearly with the help of lawyers.
Sometimes journalists have to enforce their right to press freedom against the state and its authorities by legal means. Just like the nine journalists whose accreditation was withdrawn by the Federal Press Off ice at the G20 summit in Hamburg 2017. Th ey have successfully defended themselves against this in court.
This shows that the rule of law works, and press freedom in Germany is not as bad as it is in other countries, including Europe. But the rift s are getting bigger. We will be vigilant