European Federation of Journalists

Germany: Repeal NetzDG bill, deletion is not the answer

The German journalists’ association and affiliate of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV), has called on the members of the German Bundestag to abolish the Network Enforcement Act (NetzDG) as soon as possible.

DJV federal chairman, Frank Uberall, said that “the censorship of the satirical magazine Titanic, by Twitter, has confirmed our fears that we have already put forward in the legislative process. The NetzDG pushes the power over the fundamental right of freedom of the press and freedom of private companies such as Twitter and Facebook. There is no sound legal consideration of the deletion of posts, but the fear of state fines. A paradoxical situation.”

The NetzDG bill was adopted on 5 April 2017, and came into force on 1 January 2018. The bill pressures private companies to remove any online content that might be guilty of any of the 24 current provisions of the German Criminal Code, such as the “defamation of the state and its symbols”, “anti-constitutional defamation of constitutional organs”, “defamation of religions, religious and ideological associations”, and “depictions of violence.”

EFJ’s German affiliates, the DJV and DJU in ver.di, previously criticised the adoption of the law.

The national director of the Deutscher Journalistinnen- und Journalist Union (DJU) in ver.di, Cornelia Haß, stated on 5 April 2017 that: “Even if we strongly reject the use of fake news and hate speech in social networks, in case of doubt, the deletion of such content is not the right response. Freedom of expression and diversity of opinions are fundamental to our democratic society.”

The EFJ joins the DJV in calling for an intensification of criminal prosecution and law enforcement while strengthening counter speech, fostering media literacy, and preserving a regulatory framework that respects freedom of expression in the deletion or blocking of unlawful content.

As EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård stated : “we urge the German Bundestag and Bundesrat to discuss with all stakeholders a global societal approach balancing freedom of expression and impact of hate speech on social media.”