Surface area: 357,050 sq. km.
Type of State: Federal Republic
Head of State: Johannes Rau
Head of government: Gerhard Schroeder
Two journalists arrested
On 31 July Barbara Spitzer of the American press agency, Associated Press (AP), and Oliver Stratmann, a photographer with the German press agency, Deutsche Presseagentur (DPA), were detained by the police of Frankfurt-am-Main. Earlier in the day they had covered a demonstration by asylum seekers, and the licence plate of their car had been spotted by witnesses. Although they had shown their press cards, the two journalists were held for three hours. A few days later the district’s public prosecutor dropped all charges.
Two journalists threatened
On 31 August 2001 the daily Lausitzer Rundschau in Cottbus (a town in the Brandenburg region of eastern Germany) revealed that one of the paper’s journalists, Simone Wendler, and the paper’s editor-in-chief, Peter Stefan Herbst, had been victimised by acts of intimidation for several months. On 1 April an unidentified person had taken photos of the journalist’s house. A short time later she received death threats by phone. Peter Stefan Herbst’s flat was broken into, but nothing was taken. Simone Wendler had written a series of articles about a corruption and embezzlement scandal by the town’s public housing office, implicating members of Cottbus’s administration and agents of the former Stasi, the secret police of the former East German State.
Pressure and obstruction
On 12 March 2001 the German national airline, Lufthansa, informed the management of Süddeutsche Zeitung in Munich that it was reducing its order of papers by 10,000 copies. Starting on 8 February, the paper had published a series of articles and reports on the strike by the airline’s pilots. Lufthansa’s management denies any link between its decision and the daily’s articles, saying instead that it was part of its desire to diversify its offer of newspapers on its planes. Yet only a short time before, the daily and the airline had reached an agreement that foresaw no reduction in the number of newspapers supplied.
On 12 July 2001 the public prosecutor formally opened an investigation on three journalists for "handling information protected by professional confidentiality", pursuant to a complaint lodged by Klaus Landowsky, former president of the DCU parliamentary group (Christlich Demokratische Union, Christian Democratic Union) and former spokesman for the management of the financial company, Berlin Hyp. In a financial affair involving Klaus Landowsky, the three journalists had published important information prior to the opening of the investigation. They were questioned as witnesses between 23 May and 19 June but declined to reveal their sources. On 9 August the president of the chamber of deputies and a leader of the CDU, Reinhard Führer, stated his support of bringing penal action against the three journalists.
On 5 October 2001 several leaders of the CDU, including the party’s president, Angela Merkel, called for the dismissal of Ulrich Wicket from his job as anchorman on the public television network, ARD, for having made a comparison between the "ways of thinking" of the American President, George W. Bush, and Ossama bin Laden. In an article published in the magazine, Max, the journalist quoted the Indian writer, Ahrundati Roy, saying that "Ossama bin Laden is America’s family secret, the American President’s ’dark doppelganger’." The journalist added that "Bush is neither a killer nor a terrorist, but the [two men’s] way of thinking is the same. And Bush shares the trait of intolerance with Berlusconi". The CDU president feels that "if it is true that Ulrich Wicket made this statement, he is no longer qualified to be an anchorman on public television". The journalist subsequently apologised and withdrew his comments.
On 1 November Thomas Kleine-Brockhoff, Bruno Schirra and Martin Klingst, journalists for the daily Die Zeit, went on trial in Hamburg for violating investigative confidentiality. On 20 July 2001 they published an article called "Operation Löschtaste" (Operation Erase) exposing confidential information on the CDU financial scandal that emerged in 1998. The indictment charges the journalists with having taken excerpts from information figuring in the official investigation into the affair. The sentences for violating investigative confidentiality range from a fine to one year’s imprisonment. Michael Naumann, editor-in-chief of Die Zeit, as a witness, defended his three journalists by citing article 5 of the German Constitution guaranteeing press freedom. The court nonetheless fined each of the journalists 3,068 euros. The journalists have appealed the decision.