Follow–up: Police Action against Journalist

Hamburg, Germany’s police search blogger/activist's office, and confiscating journalistic material, and equipment

Hamburg policing action Photo by DemofotoHH at 17 May 2014 Blockupy (Hamburg) – Germany
Photo by DemofotoHH: Hamburg policing action at Blockupy (Hamburg) – Germany on 17 May 2014.

This is a follow–up on my recent Facebook re–post of a TAZ Magazine article that was called to my attention by publikative.org regarding Hamburg, Germany's police searching, and confiscating journalistic material, and equipment from a local journalist's office. When asked to comment on their course of action, police claimed officers’ written permission was required when the faces of officers on duty are visible in images of policing actions published, in this case a political protest, and the journalist, a blogger, and activist in Hamburg, had failed to request the written permission of the officers in question to display their images publicly.

When the issue became public on social media, it was remarked that if this practice could be established, then we would have an entirely new state of affairs in matters of journalistic freedom, though i doubted very much that the practice would stand up in court. As a legal lay–person, it would seem §23 of the "Kunsturhebergesetz" the German law regulating art and copyright questions permits depicting individuals who are members of public events without their prior written consent.

This article on a court ruling kindly provided thanks to fellow activist Ms. Ulrike Beudgen would seem to support our suspicion, that the Hamburg police action was unlawful. In this previous case the police accompanying a castor transport am 26 Nov 2011 had justified the confiscation of journalistic tools of the trade on the grounds of "gegenwärtige Gefahr" Police dispersing protesters blocking railway tracks on the castor route in 2011.(English: a present threat), claiming the journalists were coordinating civil disobedience by means of their mobile signal, and that their signal was interfering with police radio. According to the Administrative Court ruling in Lüneburg, Germany, given serious nature of the act of curtailment freedom of journalism, the officers had not adequately establish “gegewärtige Gefahr”, and ought to have consulted more expert investigators before compromising such fundamental citizens' rights.

For readers of German, the highly recommended on–line IT magazin Heise.de gives it's own excellent angle on the story. In addition Publikative.de cites a German Federal Administrative Court ruling that states officers may also be shown in images not taken directly at the scene of a protest demonstration.

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