Germany Passes EU-Dictated Law to Crack Down on Free Speech

Unnoticed by the public, the German Bundestag passed a law on the evening of Oct. 20, that will severely curtail the freedom of speech and penalize the expressing of views that differ from official “narratives”. With next to no parliamentary debate and lumped together in an “omnibus bill” with a completely unrelated law, this amendment provides for punishing anyone who “grossly” trivializes war crimes or genocide with up to three years in prison for incitement to hatred.

The amendment to §130 of the Penal Code was introduced after the European Commission filed an infringement procedure against Germany, demanding that German law be brought into compliance with an EU law of 2008 (Council Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA of 28 November 2008 on combating certains forms and expressions of racism and xenophobia by means of criminal law), but it actually goes beyond it, according to experts.

Considering how controversial it is to define what constitutes a war crime or genocide, and how complicated it is to determine who has committed what acts in the course of war, not to mention the ambiguity of the notion of “grossly” trivializing, the wording of the text adopted by the Bundestag opens the door to all kinds of arbitrary excesses. According to LTO legal editor and lawyer Hasso Suliak of Wolters Kluwer Deutschland, the criminalization of acts that are “likely to incite hatred or violence and to distub the public peace”, could be extended to include statements made during rallies or demonstrations, for example those favorable to Russian President Putin.

At a time when growing numbers of citizens are taking to the streets, and not only in Germany, to protest the involvement of their government in the war in Ukraine, and to demand the lifting of the sanctions, the implications are chilling. They were addressed by jurist and author Dr. Wolfgang Bittner in an article on Nachdenkseiten. He points out that the public prosecutor’s office and the courts will be given “an exceedingly broad margin of discretion” when interpreting the provision. “In plain language, it means that anyone who expresses himself publicly in a manner that is undesirable and disapproved of by the authorities can (possibly) be severely punished.” This is “unmistakably another step toward restricting fundamental rights, especially freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and scientific freedom”.

One wonders whether the courts would use their discretionary powers to punish those, including in the media, who incite to violence and hatred against Russians, or who “grossly trivialize” NATO’s war crimes…

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