14.9.05

Press Freedom under fire as German prosecutors raid magazine


As reported on Spiegel Online, journalists in Germany are voicing concerns over press freedom after public prosecutors raided the offices of political magazine Cicero .

The prosecutors from Potsdam swooped on the magazine's offices with warrants to investigate jouralist Bruno Schirra, Cicero editor Wolfram Weimer and 'an unknown' person. They wouldn't confirm what they are looking for beyond stating that the investigation related to betraying the state. Its thought the background to this came from an article by Schirra in April's edition of the publication where he chronicled the rise of Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and made reference to intelligence reports from the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) - Germany's federal criminal police office - that were marked 'for operational use only'. The document contained over 125 pages that formed an assessment that al-Zarquawi was seen as 'a leader of an independent, autonomous terrorist network'.

Why its taken until now for the state to object to what appeared in April is not known and editor Wolfram Weimer is not keen to speculate given he remains unsure of the extent of the charges against him. Meanwhile Schirra received a call on his mobile phone informing him that prosecutors had just entered his Berlin flat through the bathroom window to search it.

The raid has been condemned by senior journalists across the country. Hans Werner Kilz, Editor in Chief of the Süddeutsche Zeitung is quoted as saying 'newsrooms aren't import-export booths for carpet-traders. Criminal investigators haven't lost anything there and should keep out'

A spokesman for German jouralists' union DJV, said that this latest raid pointed to a worrying trend that saw the state increasingly willing to interfere with press freedom and attempting to uncover journalists' sources. Last month the DJV issued a report criticising how a reporter's phone had been tapped.

As in the UK, it appears that the war on terror is seeing is leading to a more subtle form of war being waged on press freedom and journalists' sources. If the journalists can get the sources then surely the intelligence services of the state should be able to do the same. They need to refrain from raiding journalists' laundry baskets to dig up dirt and carry out some clean investigations of their own.

Spiegel report (German) HERE

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