Berlin, January 19, 2023 – German authorities must immediately stop harassing journalists affiliated with the independent nonprofit radio station Radio Dreyeckland, return all equipment and documents seized in raids on its editors’ homes, and ensure that members of the press are not threatened with criminal charges over their work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
On Tuesday morning, police officers in the southwestern city of Freiburg searched the newsroom of Radio Dreyeckland and the homes of managing editor Andreas Reimann and editor Fabian Kienert, and seized devices and documents relating to the station’s reporting, according to media reports, a report by the station, and Reimann, who spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.
Authorities are investigating the station and its editors over an article published in summer 2022 on the outlet’s website covering legal proceedings against Linksunten.Indymedia, a banned far-left group, according to those sources.
Prosecutors allege that the broadcaster had disseminated the ideology of a banned group by including a link in that article to a publicly available archive affiliated with Linksunten.Indymedia, as well as an image depicting graffiti voicing support for the organization, according to the station’s report and a joint statement by the Freiburg police and the Karlsruhe prosecutor’s office.
Reimann told CPJ that he and Kienert deny any wrongdoing. If charged and convicted, the editors could face up to three years in prison or a fine under the Section 85 of the German criminal code.
“German authorities must immediately stop harassing Andreas Reimann and Fabian Kienert of Radio Dreyeckland, drop any investigation into their work, and return all documents and equipment seized from the journalists,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Furthermore, authorities should investigate how German police committed such shocking actions and provide a public explanation for this harassment, which has no place in Germany or any EU member state.”
The search was conducted under a warrant issued by the public prosecutor’s office in the nearby city of Karlsruhe, and approved by a Karlsruhe court, according to the joint statement.
Reimann told CPJ that police searched his and Kienert’s homes at about 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday, January 17, and confiscated documents, a desktop computer, laptops, and phones, as well as multiple digital storage devices that held information relating to the journalists’ private lives and Radio Dreyeckland’s work and finances.
During the apartment searches, officers questioned both journalists about the authorship of that 2022 article and the broadcaster’s editorial process, Reimann said. Police then searched the station’s offices and requested access to its computer system; at that point, Kienert told them that he had authored that article, and police stopped their search, Reimann told CPJ.
Reimann said that he and Kienert filed a complaint against the investigation, calling for police to immediately return all items seized from their homes and to stop examining the journalists’ documents. He said that the search was a “shocking and serious attack on the protection of journalistic sources and press freedom.”
CPJ emailed the prosecutor’s office in Karsruhe the Frieberg police for comment, but did not immediately receive any replies.