Daily Management Review

Online Treason in Germany


There is a storm of indignation on the media and the Internet. The public prosecutor of the Federal Republic of Germany has launched an investigation against Netzpolitik.org journalists on charges of divulging state secrets. And immediately suspended.

Online Treason in Germany
On Friday, July 31, the Attorney General of the Federal Republic of Germany Harald Range said that an independent commission of experts should determine whether it is possible to consider the publication on site Netzpolitik.org as the disclosure of state secrets. Before the commission's findings, "given the high value of freedom of the press," the prosecutor's office temporarily suspended the investigation. It lasted just one day.

Opened Secrets

On Thursday it became known that the journalists of Netzpolitik.org are suspected in treason - namely, divulging state secrets. The website published two articles about the plans of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution to control the Internet and social networks. Secret documents of the agency have been made public as the evidence.

They deal with the establishment of a special department 3C with a detailed schedule of tasks, technical and staffing requirements. From these data, it is easy to have an idea about the financing of the new department. The publication is dated April 15. Then, few people in Germany drew attention to it. However, after it became known about the beginning of the investigation against journalists on suspicion of treason, on cannot get on the site - the server is overloaded.

Other sites immediately swiped the secret documents. A chief editor of the resource Correctiv.org Markus Grill, which also deals with investigative journalism, not limited himself with copying, but even sued himself, suggesting to start investigation against him too.

"Netzpolitik.org" - Office and kitchen

This site is made by a handful of journalists and bloggers. The office, alias kitchen, is located in the center of Berlin. Only founders of the resource - Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister – work full-time, supported by a whole army of social activists. The main themes of publications - the protection of personal data, espionage secret services and control of information in the network. Reporters are investigating and have positioned themselves as network defenders. In particular, they have long been involved in the investigation of complicity of the German secret service in phone tapping and spying on the Internet.

On Thursday, July 30, Netzpolitik.org’s journalists received official notification that the Federal Prosecutor's Office at the request of the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution begins the investigation against them on suspicion of disclosing state secrets. That is the first reaction of Marcus Beckedahl in an interview with dpa: "This is some kind of surrealism, when you know that you can go to jail for that you opened how the Office for the Protection of the Constitution seems to want to tighten control over the Internet in violation of the Constitution".

Scare journalists to punish deputies

Joking aside, Article 94-I of the Criminal Code of Germany is serious. Not only the transfer of classified documents to other states here considered as divulging state secrets, but open publications too, if it may result in damage to the Federal Republic of Germany. Journalists, however, are not subject to prosecution if they are limited to "the acquisition, analysis and publication of secrets."

Netzpolitik.org can only blamed for that journalists not just retold the facts, but published the secret documents completely. Penalty for violation of the 94th article is at least 1 year of imprisonment. In particularly serious cases - from 5 years to life imprisonment. Not only journalists, but also many politicians doubt that the aim of the prosecution’s attack is the authors of Netzpolitik.org.

The head of the Federal Office for Protection of the Constitution Hans-Georg Maassen has repeatedly complained "that secret and top-secret documents relating to the work of the secret services, once they fall into the hands of politicians and MPs, immediately become the property of the media." Bundestag deputy from the ‘Green’ party Konstantin von Notz in an interview with radio station Deutschlandfunk explained that "Mr. Maassen clearly has in mind that one of the deputies spilled the beans."

An attack on press’ freedom

Leading political editor of the newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung Hans Leyendecker indicates that there is "an attempt to intimidate journalists and anyone who gives them information." According to him, Hans-Georg Maassen "does not want the documents from his department to be made public and, therefore, is now trying to catch the journalists."

Is the Prosecutor General threatened with resignation?

Cases of harassment of journalists for disclosing state secrets in Germany can be counted on the fingers. The loudest - the so-called "scam with the magazine Der Spiegel". In 1962, the weekly magazine published an article entitled "Relatively tenable", dedicated to the deplorable state of the Bundeswehr.

At the urging of then Defense Minister of Germany Franz Josef Strauss, the redaction was shook down, seven journalists, including the editor in chief Rudolf Augstein, were arrested. It was the height of the Cold War. The journalists held behind bars for 103 days. Across the country, there were mass demonstrations in defense of freedom of the press. As a result, journalists were released, and the defense minister was forced to resign for trying to pressure judicial authorities.

source: dw.de

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