If it were up to the Federal Attorney General and the President of the German Domestic Security Agency, two reporters of Netzpolitik.org, a German digital rights blog, would soon be in prison for at least two years. Yesterday, the news blog was officially informed about investigations against the editors Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister. The accusation: Treason under Section 94 of the German Criminal Code:
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.
Until this week, the news site was reported merely as witnesses in a case following the publication of documents that revealed a €2.75m project for processing massive online datasets as well as plans for a 75-man unit in the German secret service to monitor Twitter, Facebook chats and other communications. Now however, two authors are accused of treason and as “joint principals”.
Markus Beckedahl, the editor-in-chief of Netzpolitik told EDRi:
We see this as an attack on press freedom. This is clearly an attempt at intimidation against us, other journalists and whistleblowers in order to prevent revelations on how deep the German government and intelligence agencies are involved with the US National Security Agency (NSA).
The last charges of treason against German journalists date back to the Spiegel scandal in 1962. Such investigations of a news site appear to be in breach of the reasoning in the ruling of the German Constitutional Court in the Cicero case in 2007.
Read the original German letter of the Federal Attorney General in full text.
Leaked documents (in German) of the Netzpolitik.org articles, February and April 2015: Haushaltsplan (pdf) and Einrichtung Referatsgruppe “Erweiterte Fachunterstützung Internet” im BfV (pdf)