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Plans to censor Oktoberfest debauchery spark press protest

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Photo: DPA
12:02 CEST+02:00
Attempts to restrict filming and photographing scenes of drunken debauchery at Munich's Oktoberfest this year has provoked accusations organisers of the beer bash are impinging freedom of the press.

The Bavarian Journalists’ Union (BVJ) on Thursday condemned the move to sanitise coverage of Oktoberfest, which kicks off this weekend, as unacceptable censorship.

Press photographers and television teams will be “massively hindered” in doing their job this year at the festival, the BVJ said in a statement.

“The Oktoberfest isn’t some ideal world. Reports from the bigger picture are in the public interest. This censorship shows that the right to full coverage has been sacrificed on the altar of commercialism,” said BVJ President Wolfgang Stöcke.

The complaint comes after an announcement by the Munich Tourist Office that members of the media are forbidden at this year’s event from “taking pictures or filming drunk people or women lifting their shirts.”

Stefan Hempl, press spokesman for Bavaria's state-owned brewery Hofbräuhaus, has made accreditation of photographers to its Oktoberfest tent conditional on their agreeing to shoot only themes he approves.

“They have to do what I say,” he said, insisting such action is grounded in a concern to maintain the image of the the brewery.

“There are a few things I don’t want to see,” he continued, threatening to stick his hand in front of the lens of any photographer choosing to disobey him.

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“I don’t want any nakedness, or any tits. I’m sticking to that rule,” he clarified, describing his feeling of responsibility to protect “the right to privacy of our guests.”

The BVJ has expressed concern that other Oktoberfest organisers have decided to follow the lead of Hofbräuhaus in controlling photo coverage of the event. The Munich tourist authorities have encouraged TV crews to submit a list of themes for accreditation each day, but the BVJ believes that decisions have already been made to reject ideas “without sufficient factual reasons.”

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