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Press freedom laws planned to protect whistleblowers

DPA/The Local · 3 Apr 2010, 13:47

Published: 03 Apr 2010 13:47 GMT+02:00

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In comments previewed on Saturday, Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger foreshadowed laws that would enable journalists to keep secret the identity of sources of government leaks – even if the leaks constitute breaches of state secrets.

“Members of the media must be able to do their job, keeping an eye on state activities and exposing failures, freely and unhindered,” she told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

Therefore she was drafting laws to “strengthen press freedom,” under which journalists could no longer be prosecuted for refusing to give up their sources. Also, rules surrounding confiscation of journalists’ source material and documents would be tightened, she said.

In drafting the bill, Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has used as a guideline the recommendations of the Constitutional Court in the so-called “Cicero case.”

In 2005, police raided the office of Cicero magazine after it published details of a classified terrorism report from the Federal Criminal Police (BKA). Cicero took legal action and, eventually, Germany’s highest court ruled that journalists had a right to protect their sources.

The court ruled that journalists’ offices and homes could not be searched because they themselves had not broken any law and in fact had a right to the confidentiality of their information.

Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said her draft bill was still being examined by other ministries, though she expected no objections, given the press freedom laws had been agreed upon in coalition negotiations between the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. She expected the Cabinet to consider the laws before the summer break.

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Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said she viewed the draft bill as part of her plan for a “new direction in justice policy” that strengthened citizens’ rights.

DPA/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

14:31 April 3, 2010 by dcgi
... and of course there is also wikileaks!
14:55 April 3, 2010 by Prufrock2010
I fully support such a shield law. If journalists can be compelled to disclose the identity of their confidential sources, there will be no more confidential sources to protect. Would-be whistleblowers will remain silent and corruption will flourish even more than it does today. We live in an age of limitless information with almost no context by which to process it or determine its accuracy or relevance. We live in an age of propaganda paid for by special interests that poses as news. Without journalists of integrity who are protected by such a shield law, objective journalism will cease to exist altogether, and the public will be the ultimate losers.
19:36 April 3, 2010 by freechoice
so when are they going to publish the names of tax evaders in Germany?
21:37 April 3, 2010 by wood artist
Sounds good to me. The more sunshine the better.

As I once told my boss:

If you don't want employees to know the truth, what does that say about the truth?

11:39 April 5, 2010 by Bensonradar
About time too! Without whistle blowers, corruption, bad management and poor government policy is never highlighted.

Blow the whistle harder and more often. It is a democracy we are living in, with freedom of the press isn't it?
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