What is meant by respect for freedom

Freedom of the press

(1) Everyone has the right to freely express and disseminate his or her opinion in words, writing and images and to obtain information from generally accessible sources without hindrance. Freedom of the press and freedom of reporting through radio and film are guaranteed. Censorship does not take place.

(2) These rights are limited in the provisions of general laws, the statutory provisions for the protection of young people and in the right to personal honor.

As brief as the first two paragraphs of Article 5 of the Basic Law (GG) on freedom of opinion and information as well as freedom of the press, broadcasting and film are, they raise so many questions: Why is freedom of the press important, what defines it? Has freedom of the press already become a reality with its legal anchoring? What exactly do the restrictions in paragraph 2 mean? In the following, I will pursue these questions, sketching the development of press freedom in Germany and at the same time taking a look at current threats to this fundamental right.


Freedom of the press is not a luxury. It has a benefit for the individual, because without it he could not shape his life at the height of the given possibilities. And it has a social benefit, because without it, society would lack the strength to recognize and deal with problems. Complex, highly differentiated societies are criss-crossed by numerous communication barriers; Social systems, the members and parts of which cannot communicate with one another due to a lack of unhindered communication and do not learn enough about one another, are not viable in the long term.

Journalists therefore have the task of creating a public image, that is: to convey as much correct and important information as possible to as many people as possible. This is necessary so that individuals can act as voters or market participants. The self-regulating power of elections or markets depends on broad participation in them, which in turn requires transparency from political programs or product offerings, for example. Transparency as a resource for self-regulation can only arise, however, if journalists are free to decide for themselves (and thus to be responsible) with regard to their professional task, what they research and publish. And it can only arise if the public has free access to the information offered by the media.

Freedom of the press is therefore one systemically important Achievement. Freedom of communication is not just a human right, it serves the common good. The Federal Constitutional Court ruled in the "Spiegel" ruling in 1966: "If the citizen is to make political decisions, he must be fully informed (...). The press (...) procures the information, comments on it itself and thus acts as an orienting force in the public controversy. (...) Press companies are in intellectual and economic competition with one another, in which public authorities are fundamentally not allowed to intervene. "[1]

The verdict put an end to the "Spiegel" affair, which was triggered in 1962 by an article in the news magazine "Der Spiegel" about the Bundeswehr's lack of preparedness. As a result of a criminal complaint for treason, the Federal Court of Justice had the editorial offices searched and arrested the editor Rudolf Augstein, the publishing director and several editors. The verdict in favor of the "Spiegel" has since been considered a milestone in the freedom of the press in Germany. [2]


Freedom of the press is a relative term: unlimited communication is never given entirely or not at all, but always more or less. The organization Reporters Without Borders has adopted this view with a graduated international ranking of press freedom. [3] The term makes high demands on the imagination because it does not denote anything given, but the absence of communication barriers and can therefore only be determined ex negativo. Article 5, paragraph 1, sentence 3 of the Basic Law is characteristic: "There is no censorship."

What should not be restricted in principle, however, is easy to see. The reference to "generally accessible sources" and the mention of the press, radio and film make it clear that above all public communication via mass media is meant. With "express" and "teach oneself" the active as well as the passive dimension of communication is addressed. The subjects of freedom of the press should not be restricted either as communicators or as recipients.

It is less clear Which Restrictions on public communication are intended to exclude freedom of the press. The ban on censorship is associated with the idea that it primarily refers to state requirements. In scientific as well as in practical-political discourse, however, the insight has gained acceptance that even where freedom of the press is legally guaranteed, public communication can be unnecessarily restricted by administrative measures, economic conditions or cultural traditions. This is particularly evident in their social benefits. How can unimpeded information from generally accessible sources lead to comprehensive transparency if there is a lack of sufficient diversity of such sources due to economic media concentration? How should grievances come to light when journalists have no time or are afraid to research sensitive issues?

Constitutional lawyers point out that the term freedom of communication does not only mean the defense against state restrictions on the media: "Freedom of communication is an 'all-round freedom' (...). Not only state tutelage, but any kind of tutelage must be kept away. (... ) If the freedom of communication is endangered (...), the fundamental rights can, in exceptional cases, also act directly against those who exercise economic, social and other power. "[4] Social science concepts of freedom of the press also consciously pay attention to economic and cultural restrictions.

This professional discourse has an influence on media policy and media practice. Reporters Without Borders Measures Press Freedom Using Questionnaire Sent To "Hundreds Of Experts On Every Continent"; In it are "factors such as media diversity, legal and economic framework conditions or access to the profession of journalist [taken into account]. (...) Self-censorship, freedom of research and financial pressure are included in the assessment, as well as obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet." [6 ]