German police got the permission to wiretap the telephone conversations of journalists.


German police has the right to wiretap the telephones of journalists during the investigation of grave crimes, if it is necessary for the search of especially dangerous criminals. This decision was issued on 12 March by the Constitutional Court of Federal Republic of Germany. The court came to the conclusion that the principles of the freedom of the press are not violated in such cases.

In this way the Court rejected the claims of journalists, whose phone conversations were wiretapped by law-enforcing organs. Journalists’ trade unions criticized this decision. They believe that it means the abrogation of the right on the secrecy of informants.

Deutsche Welle informs that two journalists, a correspondent of the Second Channel of the German TV company ZDF and a reporter of the Hamburg weekly „Schtern“, turned with the complaint to the Constitutional Court. The former conducted the journalist investigation of the resonance case of businessman Jurgen Schneider accused of the large-scale gerrymanders in the construction industry. The journalist communicated with the businessman by telephone. The second journalist, on the task of the editorial board, communicated by cell phone with terrorist Hans-Joachim Klein, who was wanted by police.

The judges did not explain what they called „the especially grave crimes“. At the same time, they remarked that law-enforcing organs might not regard the court decision as a carte blanche for wiretapping cell and stationary telephones of editorial boards.

To obtain the corresponding prosecutor’s warrant, law-enforcers must present the conclusive proofs both of the fact of the commitment of an especially grave crime by the suspected and the existence of the phone contact between the suspected and journalist.

14 March 2003

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