Germany Officially Drops Ridiculous 'Treason' Investigation Into Netzpolitik

from the took-long-enough dept

Last month, we wrote about how German officials were investigating the German news site Netzpolitik (which covers a lot of the same things that Techdirt covers) for treason. That was because of a few stories on Netzpolitik that published whistleblowing documents on plans to expand Germany's internet surveillance powers. The investigation resulted in widespread protests by people concerned about the chilling effects created by investigating reporters for possible treason for merely reporting on the news.

There was also plenty of disagreement within the government itself, with the German Justice Minister expressing his disapproval of the investigation and eventually firing the prosecutor after that prosecutor accused the Justice Minister of "encroaching" on his independence.

Now, a week later, German prosecutors have officially dropped the investigation, though it still raises questions about why it was started in the first place.
On Monday the federal prosecutor’s office said it was closing the case because it believed the leaked documents on which the website’s reports were based were not a “state secret”, and that other conditions for treason charges had not been met.
Thankfully, Markus Beckedahl, the editor-in-chief of Netzpolitik, does not want the matter to end there either. He wants to know why the investigation began in the first place:
Beckedahl suggested the decision to drop the inquiry was not enough. “We want to know precisely whether we were subject to surveillance measures during the almost three-month investigation,” he said. Beckedahl said he hoped the case would motivate authorities to improve protection for whistleblowers in Germany.
Hopefully, this does lead to much better protection for both journalists and whistleblowers.

Filed Under: germany, investigation, journalism, treason, whistleblowers
Companies: netzpolitik


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  • identicon
    That One Other Not So Random Guy, 11 Aug 2015 @ 4:18pm

    They made their point

    Chilling effects already happened. It tells other journalists to watch what they say and do or you could be investigated too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 11 Aug 2015 @ 4:34pm

      Re: They made their point

      Indeed, another case where the trial doesn't matter, the message has been sent regardless.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Sunhawk, 12 Aug 2015 @ 3:57am

      Re: They made their point

      As a silver lining, the prosecutor in question *was* fired, so that might act a bit to cool down future attempts at shenanigans like this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2015 @ 5:50pm

    Fear will keep the local syst.. ahem... journalists in line. Fear of this battle stat.. cough.... legal system.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 11 Aug 2015 @ 6:45pm

    So in other words, they're acknowledging they didn't have the legal basis to charge them with treason in the first place?

    And then they let them off on a loophole because the documents were not "state secrets"?

    Sounds like they're still trying to pass it off as treason, but lack the legal backing to do it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    techflaws (profile), 12 Aug 2015 @ 3:30am

    Can't find the link ATM but there was an article on Telepolis whose author suggested, "treason" was used deliberately to be able to use surveillance techniques on Netzpolitik.org to find about their sources.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Nibbelus, 12 Aug 2015 @ 6:17am

    Has anything like this ever happened in the US?

    I mean, where a journalist gets shat upon by paranoid, overzealous security-state workers and instead of the journalist losing his/her job, maybe receiving death threats, etc., it's the govt attack dog that gets fired.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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