Attacks on press freedom in 2007 were mostly threats to undermine the privacy of journalistic sources, with court decisions and moves in parliament.
The constitutional court ruled on 27 February 2007 that police raids in 2005 on the offices of the political magazine Cicero were illegal, along with their copying of computer data. The magazine had run extracts in April 2005 of a secret report by police about Al-Qaeda activities and police searched its offices in September. Editor Wolfram Weimer said it was a violation of press freedom and appealed to the constitutional court, which ruled that press freedom was entrenched in the national constitution and that “searches and seizures as part of investigation of a journalist” were “illegal if they simply or chiefly aimed to find out the name of a journalistic source.”
Despite the ruling, 17 journalists were prosecuted in 2007 for “involvement in disclosing state secrets” (article 353b of the criminal code). They included journalists on Berliner Zeitung, taz, Tagesspiegel, Frankfurter Rundschau, Die Zeit, Welt, Der Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung, in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt a.M. and Hamburg. The lawsuits were filed in August after the leaking of confidential material from a parliamentary commission investigating the role of the BND secret services in the fight against terrorism. The national journalists association DJV says 180 suits alleging “complicity in betraying state secrets” have been brought against journalists in Germany since 1986. All the investigations have been dropped by the end of the year. Berlin was the last one on the 20th of december 2007.
The issue will remain a major one for journalists in 2008. The lower house of parliament in November 2007 passed a proposal by justice minister Brigitte Zypries requiring telecommunications firms to keep records of their customers for six months. The measure (effective 1 January 2008 but not until 2009 for online traffic) brings German law into line with European Union directive 2006/24/EC, under which EU countries have to keep data needed for investigations and prosecutions for between six months and a year. It will enable message senders and recipients to be identified, as well as the date and type of message, the equipment used and the location of mobile phone users. The law also gives lawyers, MPs and religious figures protection journalists do not get. Examining magistrates will be able to force journalists to disclose their communications if considered in the interests of the investigation.
The measure sparked strong protests from civil society and 30,000 people signed a petition to appeal it to the constitutional court, which cannot hear it before the law is officially promulgated in the official gazette. Media organisations also voiced opposition to the measure.