German Journalists Charged With Treason For Post-Snowden Documents

German Journalists Charged With Treason For Post-Snowden Documents

The last time journalists were charged for treason in Germany was the Spiegel affair in 1962. Yesterday the German news site (well known and respected for their work reporting on “net-politics”) received a letter from the Federal Attorney General of Germany about investigations of treason. The investigation concerns two of their reporters, Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister, whom are both accused together with an “unknown” source.

“We leaked some internal documents of the secret service of Germany in the spring, documenting that they are building up a mass surveillance on social networks with lots of new jobs and new capabilities” – Beckedahl

The reporting was made two years after Snowden’s revelations on mass surveillance. The accusations of treason mainly concern the two articles that detailed how the German intelligence service would expand their surveillance on social networks: “Mass Data Analysis of Internet Content” (in German) and “We Unveil the New Unit of the German Domestic Secret Service to Extend Internet Surveillance” (in German).

“Whosoever […] allows a state secret to come to the attention of an unauthorised person or to become known to the public in order to prejudice the Federal Republic of Germany or benefit a foreign power and thereby creates a danger of serious prejudice to the external security of the Federal Republic of Germany, shall be liable to imprisonment of not less than one year.” – German Penal Code

According to German law the reporters risk up to 15 years in prison for their reporting. The German secret services are under intense public pressure after the Snowden revelations and other surveillance scandals in Germany. Netzpolitik condemns the investigation as a direct attack on press freedom and an attempt to silence the debate:

¨From the very beginning, the charges against our alleged source(s) were politically motivated and targeted to crush the necessary public debate about internet surveillance Post-Snowden. Whistleblowers in the public interest need protection, not prosecution for “treason”. Investigating the acclaimed media outlet as accomplices in treason charges is a direct attack on freedom of the press, which we thought was outlawed with the Constitutional Court ruling in the Cicero case 2007.¨

The German Pirate Party reacted quickly and published an outraged blogpost, citing Kristos Thingilouthis, political secretary of the board:

“This accusation is ridiculous and a throwback to the sixties, which we should have behind us. Another Spiegel Affair does not fit in our time.The notion presuming that wanted to harm the Federal Republic of Germany – how do they even come up with this stuff! This is nothing more than an attempt at intimidation. This investigation must be stopped immediately!”

Featured image: CC-BY, zigazou76
dited: 3/8  for translation correction