World Report - Germany
|Publisher||Reporters Without Borders|
|Publication Date||January 2011|
|Cite as||Reporters Without Borders, World Report - Germany, January 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4d59462428.html [accessed 22 May 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
German media is renowned for its plurality, independence and courage in tackling sensitive issues and conducting investigative research. The media reacted negatively, however, to laws on regulating the use of electronic data and telephone communications breaching confidentiality of information. In addition, a discussion has evolved on the issue of whether the principle of the public broadcasting system's autonomy and independence can still be assured. The debate followed a controversial decision not to extend the contract of a public broadcaster's chief editor. Furthermore, the trend of concentration of dailies is an increasing danger for the media's diversity in Germany.
In January 2009, the government and the parliament adopted an anti-terror law extending the role and the rights of the Federal Ministry of Justice. The new law allows online searches and telecommunication surveillance. These measures of inquiry, however, can only be carried out with a court warrant in line with the constitutional court ruling and are granted only in cases of serious criminal acts.
In a similar way the law on telecommunication data retention ("Vorratsdatenspeicherung") was met with criticism. The law on "Vorratsdatenspeicherung" was an implementation of a corresponding European Union directive. It requires telecommunications companies to retain data for six months as well as transmit personal details and the location of users' calls to national security services. The directive endangers the protection of journalistic sources as well as the confidentiality of communication between journalists and informants. On 2 March 2010 the German Federal Constitutional Court ruled this regulation as being unconstitutional, a decision widely approved by RSF, journalists' associations and organisations for data protection. The German government has, however, announced that it will be drafting a new law to implement the EU directive.
Nikolaus Brender, chief editor of the public television channel ZDF, was forced to resign from his position in November 2009. His contract was not renewed after several politicians on ZDF's executive board mainly members of Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union questioned Brender's qualifications for the job. Brender, a widely respected journalist, gained a lot of support throughout the German media. Media and organisations such as RSF judge the refusal to extend Brender's contract as a blatant violation of public broadcasters' principle of independence as stipulated by the Federal Constitutional Court.
Due to financial pressure, the situation of media plurality and quality worsened in 2009 and 2010. There is an increased number of layoffs and a general trend of merging editorial departments is being witnessed. The large media group Gruner + Jahr is cutting jobs in various magazines in order to reduce costs. Another example of press fusion is seen with the group of media WAZ the source of information for three of its newspapers' national pages is primarily a single news desk of the corporate headquarters based in Essen.