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09.09.2016

Administrative Court: A blog is not a press medium

by Gianna Iacino
On 31 May 2016, the Administrative Court of Augsburg decided that a blog is not a press medium and therefore, the author of the blog cannot assert any rights of the press act (Au 7 E 16.251).

A newspaper operates a blog on the topic of right-wing extremism. According to the newspaper, prominent figures, experts, and pupils of affected regions use the blog to discuss and report on the topic. One of the authors of the blog requested information from the Public Prosecution Office on right-wing politically motivated crimes. He wanted to know which investigation proceedings were discontinued and which were successful. He based his request on the right of access to information of the press according to art. 4 of the Bayern Press Act. After the Public Prosecution Office denied his request, he filed for a preliminary injunction in order to oblige the Public Prosecution Office to give him the requested information.

According to art. 4 of the Bayern Press Act, the press has a right of access to information from public authorities. Editors can exercise this right, as well as employees of newspapers and magazines and even freelance employees who write for a paper on a regular basis so long as the editor confirms their status.

To confirm the status of the author of the blog as a freelance employee of the newspaper, the Head of the Politics Department issued a written “authors confirmation”. He confirmed that the author writes on a regular basis for the blog and therefore, engages in a journalistic activity. He also stated his plans to publish more articles of that author on the blog.

Despite the fact that the need for confirmation according to art. 4 Bayern Press Act was therefore fulfilled, the Court decided that the author had no right of access to information according to the Bayern Press Act. The Court does not consider the blog as part of the press. According to the imprint on the website, the blog is a joint project where everyone can publish articles, so long as the rules of the blog are being observed. A wider interpretation of the “press” to include online discussion forums would change the right of access to information of the press into a general right of access to information for everyone. This could disrupt the work of authorities too much.

Gianna Iacino, LL.M., is a Research Associate at the Institute for European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brüssel.

 

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The verdict is available online in German language here.

German version





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