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Non-EU citizens at risk of surveillance under draft German law

Demonstrators hold a poster showing a portrait of Angela Merkel reading
Demonstrators hold a poster showing a portrait of Angela Merkel reading "surveillance Chancellor" during a rally in front of the construction site of the headquarters of German intelligence agency in Berlin, 29 July 2013

AP Photo/Gero Breloer

This statement was originally published on on 22 September 2016.

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), along with its German affiliates – the Deutscher Journalisten-Verband (DJV) and the DeutscheJournalistinnen- und Journalisten-Union in ver.di (dju in ver.di) – urges the German Bundestag to back off on the revision of the Bundesnachrichtendienst–BND law, following the strong opposition of many media organisations and the OSCE.

The draft law foresees to increase BND's [Germany's foreign intelligence service] capabilities to spy on non-EU citizens outside of Germany. No exemption is made for foreign journalists or editorial offices outside the European Union: they would be subjected to surveillance without an explicit court order. This law would legitimise a practice that has been illegal up until now.

On 4 August, eight media organisations, including the European Federation of Journalists, DJV and dju in ver.di, launched a campaign to demand the German government to include in the revised BND law a clause protecting journalists and their sources. As did the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the media, Dunja Mijatovic, they considered the global mass surveillance by the BND as a serious encroachment on press freedom worldwide, since the right to protect journalists' sources and to refuse to testify are pre-conditions for journalistic activities.

Five media organisations also denounced this text by submitting an alert on the Council of Europe platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. As requested, the German authorities responded in due time and denied extending the powers to surveil foreign journalists. "The draft law enshrines a series of new protective provisions and places communications between EU citizens and the institutions and organisations of the EU and its member states under special protection for the first time," one can read. The EFJ argues that without clear exemption clause for journalists, including those working abroad, such a law won't serve EU citizens, but will rather undermine democracy.

Next Monday, 26 September, the Bundestag's committee for the interior is organising a public hearing on the reform of the BND law.

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