Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Freedom of the press wins in Germany

Two weeks ago we learned that the German government was investigating news website Netzpolitik.org on treason charges for publising stories exposing government surveillance plans. But now it has been made public, the chief prosecutor has been fired and the investigation has been terminated:

On Monday the federal prosecutor’s office said it was closing the case because it believed the leaked documents on which the website’s reports were based were not a “state secret”, and that other conditions for treason charges had not been met.

The inquiry, which was opened after a criminal complaint filed by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, also targeted the unidentified source of the leaked documents. Monday’s statement said investigating the source would now be a matter for lower-ranking local prosecutors.

Beckedahl suggested the decision to drop the inquiry was not enough. “We want to know precisely whether we were subject to surveillance measures during the almost three-month investigation,” he said. Beckedahl said he hoped the case would motivate authorities to improve protection for whistleblowers in Germany.

Good. But its not enough. Apart from the questions of surveillance, the BfV needs to be held responsible for laying the complaint as well. Germany's spies need to learn that journalism and holding them to account is not treason.