The Federal Ministry of the Interior no longer wants to cooperate with the media in the run-up to the raids on planned club bans. “The BMI under the new management will not publish any information on association bans in advance so as not to jeopardize official measures,” a ministry spokesman said when asked by Tagesspiegel. With this, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) distances herself from a controversial practice of her predecessor Horst Seehofer (CSU). Among other things, Seehofer had communicated the ban on Shia Hezbollah in the spring of 2020 to press representatives in advance. At the time, the ministry stated that such “event-related advance information” was “part of the press and media work repertoire of the Federal Ministry of the Interior.” The then opposition factions in the Bundestag AfD, the Greens, the FDP and the Left called for an immediate end to the practice because it jeopardized police operations.
The then head of “Bild” Reichelt appeared in the raid. The police didn’t know anything.
Seehofer’s actions became known through a television documentary series about the newspaper “Bild”. He showed how Seehofer had the then “Bild” editor-in-chief Julian Reichelt come to him to inaugurate him on the ban plans. Other media were then informed about the procedure. The “Bild” reported live on the raids in four German cities, Reichelt himself appeared in the search for the Al-Irschad-Verein mosque in Berlin-Neukölln. According to his own statements, the Berlin police knew nothing of Seehofer’s arrangement with “Bild”.
Only after a lawsuit before the administrative court, Seehofer revealed details
At the time, Seehofer claimed that he had not released any details about the raids. However, Hezbollah’s ban information, some of which was also in writing, contained references to locations in Münster and Bremen. As a result, the Berlin prosecutor’s office examined an initial suspicion against the minister for violation of official secrets, but suspended the process in the summer of 2021. Seehofer had the right to assume that the media would adhere to the classification of the preliminary information as “confidential”. “, said.
At the time, Seehofer wanted to prevent further clarification of the facts and, in particular, his conversation with “Bild” boss Reichelt. Only after a successful summary action by the Tagesspiegel in the Berlin Administrative Court (Az.: VG 27 L 56/21) did the ministry have to explain his actions in detail. In the meeting with Reichelt, Seehofer only “briefly addressed” the Hezbollah ban and further “did not provide any information on the details of the operational measures, in particular on the location of the police operations associated with the ban.” However, the representatives of “Bild” agreed to report on the planned ban on activities.
The Federal Constitutional Court does the same, said
Regardless of the public discussions, the Ministry of the Interior continued its practice in the spring of 2021, sending detailed confidential information about the planned enforcement measures to three Hezbollah-related associations, again with a blackout period. In the legal dispute with the Tagesspiegel, the ministry argued that it was targeting journalists it could particularly trust. To justify his practice, he cited, among other things, the Federal Constitutional Court, which also allows certain journalists access to brief versions of their sentences before they are officially announced.
The ministry accused the Tagesspiegel of abusing information rights
The ministry accused the Tagesspiegel at the time that this supposedly common form of public relations was “shocked and covered by arbitrary negative motives.” It was “inappropriate to exaggerate the process of betraying state secrets.” In the opinion of the ministry, the clarification of Seehofer’s conversation with Reichelt before the administrative court was reprehensible: “The right to information against the authorities under the press law does not exist to support speculative and confrontational journalistic business models.”