In the aftermath of recent protests against the G20 summit held in Hamburg, the German government has shut down a website. It is now a criminal offence to use Linksunten Indymedia. The independent media page is described as “the most widely used German-language platform for radical politics and organizing”, and its closure is seen as part of a wider attack on radical infrastructure. But some suggest this is a display of law and order in the run-up to the country’s elections.
Moving the goalposts
The German Interior Ministry banned Linksunten Indymedia on 25 August. Minister Thomas de Maizière stated the government closed the website down for “sowing hate against different opinions and representatives of the country”. News outlets in Germany receive legal protection under freedom of expression; to step around this, the Interior Ministry classified the independent media site as an “association”.
This move is supposed to show the German government opposes “left-wing extremism on the internet”. De Maizière stated:
This is the expression of a behaviour that tramples human dignity. This is absolutely unacceptable and incompatible with our liberal democratic order. For radical, violent extremists – whatever their orientation – there is no place in our society
National elections will be held in Germany on 24 September. As a result, some critics say it is a move to win votes for the Christian Democrat party, which de Maizière belongs to alongside current Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Following huge anti-capitalist protests against the G20 gathering in Hamburg on 8 to 10 July, ministers in the German government called for a crackdown on what it calls ‘leftwing extremists’. De Maizière said at the time:
The events surrounding the G20 summit must be a turning point in our view of the leftwing scene’s readiness to use violence.
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
Revenge by the State?
The criminalisation of the independent media site has consequently been tied directly to the protests. Sister site Indymedia Germany released a statement saying:
This is a serious attack on the leftist movement and freedom of the press … The background to the ban is the debate following the heavy confrontations during the G20 summit in Hamburg in July. At that time ‘harsher action’ was demanded by different parties against the ‘left extreme’ scene. The ban now seems to be a symbolic expression of this shortly before the Bundestag elections.
As de Maizière announced the ban, another Interior Minister, Thomas Strobl, also of the Christian Democrat party, announced that several properties in Freiburg were being raided. Though no arrests were made, police seized computers they claim were used to maintain the website. Items the police describe as weapons were also taken, including batons and slingshots.
Start of a slippery slope
Ulla Jelpke, parliamentary spokesperson for left-wing party Die Linke, explained that this ban is legally problematic. By classifying a website as an association, it makes everyone involved with a website liable – even if they have no direct connection with posts considered extremist. She also raised the question of who this mindset could target next:
If you have articles that are anti-capitalist, but otherwise are not prosecutable – our constitution allows you to be anti-capitalist. So the question is – who does it affect tomorrow, people who support anti-capitalist politics?
The ban has motivated solidarity across the world. US anarchist network Crimethinc highlighted the problematic idea of ‘free speech’, with the German website’s ban as an example of how hypocritical it can be:
This also shows how dishonest far-right and statist rhetoric is about free speech – in fact, these hypocrites only use that discourse to position themselves to suppress others’ speech.
By using a phrase such as “left-wing extremism”, a link is imposed on the radically inclusive goals of left-wing groups such as Linksunten Indymedia users and the oppressive aims of far-right groups. And by targeting the website as an association rather than as media, an attempt is made to scare people away from being involved in any sort of radical activity – even if they aren’t themselves sharing ‘illegal’ information.
Although the short-term goal of this ban could be to win votes for the upcoming election, the long-term implications are severe. An attack on independent media in one of the world’s most powerful countries should be outraging people everywhere.
Featured image via screengrab
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?