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13.03.2017

DE: Duty to publish counterstatements on a blog

Ingo Beckendorf

On 28 November 2016, the Higher Regional Court of Berlin (Kammergericht Berlin) decided, that articles published in a blog can be categorised as journalistic-editorial content and therefore, the party concerned can have a right to reply (10 W 173/16).

The case was based on a dispute between two politicians. A former politician of the German Pirate Party, now a member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), brought an action against the author of a blog, one of his former colleagues in the Pirate Party. The plaintiff found statements made by the author in his blog to be false factual statements.

The right to a counterstatement is an expression of the public interest for correct information and the right to free formation of opinion. Moreover, the right to reply is part of the right to self-determination over the perception of the public over one’s own image.

The Court followed the plaintiff’s opinion and obliged the author of the blog to release a reply according to § 56 of the German Interstate Broadcasting Treaty (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag, RfStV). According to the Court, a blog is telemedia. As far as the content of the website was concerned, the Court argued that the author always refers to current events and political questions. A regular release of articles – in form of periodicity – was not a mandatory requirement for the enforcement of the claim. The professionalism of the author’s work and the grade of organisation in the blog showed a considerable difference to typical private blogs. Therefore, the Court concluded that the blog had a journalistic-editorial form. Therefore, the defendant was obliged to release a reply in the same part of the homepage where the controversial article was released, which contained the contested statement.

The decision is remarkable, because, so far, in Germany replies were only released in periodically printed media like newspapers and magazines.

Ingo Beckendorf works at the Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brussels.

More:

The decision of the Berlin Court from 28 November 2016 (10 W 173/16) is available in German language.

 





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