NEW ANTI-TERROR LEGISLATION
Journalists Worry 'Big Brother Law' Will Kill Press Freedom
By Charles Hawley
A new law working its way toward passage in Germany has journalists worried. Certain provisions, they say, could eliminate the ability for reporters to protect their sources. Still, the measure is likely to go into effect early next year.
It has been called the "Big Brother" law in the German media due to its provisions allowing online and telephone surveillance. The Interior Ministry in Berlin describes it as a necessary step to protect the country from the dangers of international terrorism.
But journalists in Germany see the bill -- currently in the parliament's arbitration committee after having failed to get through the country's upper legislative chamber, the Bundesrat, in November -- in a different light. They are concerned the law would make it much easier for investigators to spy on reporters without their knowledge, giving the state access to both their computer files and their sources. That, they say, represents an unacceptable attack on freedom of the press in Germany. Publishers, journalists and media lawyers are up in arms.
German journalists may soon lose certain legal protections.
This law "is one in a series of so-called security laws that have one thing in common: They endanger the freedom of the press and especially investigative journalism," Wolfgang Krach, managing editor of the influential daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, told SPIEGEL. "This is not a case of a profession selfishly looking for extra privileges. Rather, journalists want to be conferred the rights guaranteed them by the constitution and to be able to fulfil their role unhindered."
The Right to Protect Sources
The law in question would significantly increase the investigative powers of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). Investigators would be allowed to tap the phones of terror suspects, film their homes, track their mobile phone signals and even send Trojan viruses to suspects' computers allowing investigators to install "Remote Forensic Software" and clandestinely search through hard drives.
WHAT THE BKA LAW ENTAILSThe Background
The lower house of the German parliament has approved a new law that increases the investigative powers of Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA). The Bundesrat, the upper house of parliament, blocked the law. Now, an arbitration committee is looking for a compromise.