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Germany recently launched criminal proceedings against 17 journalists who published information related to U.S. prisoner rendition flights and German secret service activities in Irag during the 2003 invasion, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ).A German committee investigating the renditions (movements of prisoners by the Central Intelligence Agency with layovers in Germany) and suspected misconduct of the domestic intelligence service, the BND, was trying to keep documents cited by the reports classified.

Berlin prosecutors confirmed that an investigation had been launched, said the Ard Television Network, which broke the story. The journalists under suspicion work for leading national publications such as the weekly newsmagazines "Der Spiegel" and "Stern", the weekly newspaper "Die Zeit" and the "Suddeutsche Zeitung"and "Die Welt" dailies, according to international press reports.

On 13 August 2007, a Munich prosecutor suspended an investigation into four journalists for "complicity in the divulging of state secrets." He said they had a legitimate right not to want to identify the civil servants who leaked the information to them.

"We join the German Federation of Journalists in calling for similar decisions to be taken with the 13 other journalists," commented Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF). Prosecutors in Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt have not yet said whether they will stop investigating those other journalists.

RSF and CPJ were joined by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)'s Representative on Freedom of the Media in calling on Germany to cease criminal proceedings against journalists who publish allegedly classified information.

OSCE Representative Miklos Haraszti stressed that journalists cannot be prosecuted for publishing information of public interest, and should not be prosecuted for publishing classified information without reasonable suspicion that the journalists committed a crime in obtaining it. Noting a recent decision in the so-called "Cicero" case, Haraszti wrote in a letter to Germany's justice minister, "The groundbreaking decision of the court in this case created a federal shield for journalists when publishing classified information, which the current investigation neglects and even goes against."

In September 2005, Berlin police confiscated the research archive of freelance journalist Bruno Schirra after he profiled al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the April 2005 edition of the Potsdam monthly "Cicero". Authorities accused Schirra of enlisting a federal official to violate secrecy laws.

In February, RSF noted, the constitutional court "condemned" the "Cicero" search. "The court pointed out that press freedom is enshrined in the constitution and that it ruled that 'searches and seizures in an investigation against members of the press are illegal if their sole or main aim is to identify a source.'"

According to the Association of German Journalists (DJV), 180 legal proceedings have commenced against journalists for "complicity in betraying a state secret" since 1986.

Visit these links:
- CPJ:
- RSF:
- The OSCE:
14 August 2007

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