Treason Debate

Better Protection for Journalists?

netzpolitik-HC Plambeck_crop
Netzpolitik bloggers André Meister and Markus Beckedah have been under investigation on supicion of treason.
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    Germany needs a more concrete definition of a “state secret” to protect journalists covering controversial issues.

  • Facts


    • Politicians are considering reforms to Germany’s treason law following controversy over releasing excerpts from confidential documents over the Internet.
    • Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democrats and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union, see no need for reforms.
    • But opposition politicians want new rules to protect press freedom.
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A criminal probe of two journalists at Netzpolitik, a Berlin blog, has provoked a major debate in Berlin about reforming Germany’s law on treason, with some policymakers now demanding clear parameters to protect journalists.

The controversy started when the Netzpolitik bloggers, Markus Beckedahl and André Meister, reported last week that they were being investigated on suspicion of treason for publishing what appeared to be a secret government file detailing Germany’s new push to surveil social media.

On Tuesday, the justice ministry removed the federal prosecutor in charge of the investigation – but not before stirring up a storm of protest and fears that the treason law could threaten freedom of the press.

Critics range from center-left Social Democrats, the government’s minority coalition partner, to the socialist Left Party and liberal Federal Democratic Party. They are all calling for better protection of journalists.

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