|Home||Events||Public Statements||World Press Freedom Review||Newsletter & Publications||About IPI||Link Terminal||Contact Us|
World Press Freedom Review
2002 World Press Freedom Review
The last year has been of considerable interest to the German media. During that time, the domestic media have reported on a tense election, finally won by Chancellor Schroeder, a blunt refusal to provide military assistance to the United States in a possible war with Iraq, the death of one of Germany’s most famous journalists, the resurrection of the "old alliance" with France, the well-deserved appearance of Germany in the finals of the football World Cup and the demise of one of the world’s largest media companies.
All of these events have occurred against the background of a startling decline in profits for German media companies which has led to the dismissal of staff and a revision of financial plans. The state of the media broadly reflected the state of the country which has been caught in a severe recession. At present, the German media are knuckling under as the worst of the recession passes over them. As with media outlets all over Europe their future success rests on an increase in advertising profits, which a few brave individuals are predicting will return to their former glory in 2004.
Regarding press freedom, Germany has a rich tradition of supporting the media, however, there are a plethora of different laws which the media have to navigate in order to avoid being restricted. The defamation case of Gerhard Schroeder, this year, also showed that the Chancellor was prepared to forego traditional press freedoms when he had a personal stake in the outcome.
The subject of the true colour of Schoeder’s hair led to threats of defamation as he acted quickly to quash rumours that he dyed his hair to cover up his greying temples. The expensive case eventually ended up in Germany’s highest court and had its origins in a January article by German news agency DPP; the story led to numerous articles in newspapers and commentary on television. Angered by the suggestion that he might be lying and by the fact that his integrity had been called into question, the Chancellor took legal proceedings against the DPP.
Speaking on Schroeder’s behalf, Michael Nesselhauf, his lawyer, said, "We wanted to make sure that this story - which is absolutely false - was never repeated. It is not just about hair colour. The conservative CDU is basing its election strategy on attacking the credibility of the chancellor." In a lower court, there was a ruling that the story could not be repeated and that DPP should have checked its facts before printing the story. The decision held that the Chancellor’s rights had been violated.
In early November, perhaps Germany’s most influential journalist, Rudolf Augstein, died at the age of 79. The founder-publisher of Der Spiegel, Augstein presided over the investigative magazine as Germany attempted to heal itself after the destruction of World War II. Providing sharp social comment and stories that exposed government corruption, Der Spiegel became one of the most influential magazines in Europe. In 1962, Augstein served three months in prison for releasing military secrets. In 2000, IPI made Augstein one of its "50 IPI World Press Freedom Heroes".
During December, there was concern over restrictions on Deutsche Bahn (DB), Germany’s national train network. According to media commentators, the organisation sought to ban electronic media outlets from holding interviews in stations and on trains. The accusations came on the day that DB intended to introduce wide-ranging and controversial new pricing arrangements.
Speaking of the decision to ban the media, DB chairman, Hartmut Mehdorn, said the restrictions on camera crews were justified on a crucial day for the railroad when it will be vitally important that employees not be distracted by a "constant storm of press". He went on to say that the TV stations will be supplied with pool material. The story was broken by Die Frankfuerter Allgemeine Zeitung.
IPI provides links to other Internet sites only for the convenience of its visitors. IPI is not responsible for the availability or content of these external sites, nor does IPI endorse, guarantee or warrant the information, services or products available at these sites.