North Rhine-Westphalia’s Interior Minister Herbert Reul could face fines of up to €10,000 (£8,590/$11,864) for referring to reading a conservative German newspaper as a sign of far-right extremism after a new court ruling.
The Administrative Court in Düsseldorf has ruled that the assertions of the interior minister, a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), interferes with freedom of the press by alleging conservative newspaper Junge Freiheit is far-right extremist.
The ruling comes after the newspaper took Reul to court after he had made statements over the last year claiming that police being investigated for far-right extremist sympathies had read the publication and that reading it was a sign of extremism, Junge Freiheit reports.
Reul made his statements at an event in May of last year, which had also included several members of the press. According to the newspaper, Reul also stated that while it was not forbidden for officials to read Junge Freiheit, he claimed that “to have the ‘JF’ on the table – that’s not quite normal”.
After taking the minister to court, judges ruled that the minister’s comments could “deter potential readers from acquiring and reading the newspaper” and noted that it would especially deter police officers who wanted to avoid allegations of having a far-right extremist attitude.
The Spezialeinsatzkommando (SEK) of Frankfurt, an elite police tactical unit, was disbanded by the city government this week after chats emerged revealing officers in the unit making allegedly far-right remarks and statements. https://t.co/wytB3K6l9O
— Breitbart London (@BreitbartLondon) June 13, 2021
The case comes as Germany continues to crack down on alleged far-right extremism and reportedly made moves earlier this year to allow the German domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), to spy on members of the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD).
Earlier this week, the BfV announced that it would be treating the new right book publisher Antaios as a “suspected case”, placing owner Götz Kubitschek and others under possible government surveillance.
Germany has also been investigating cases of alleged right-wing extremism among police. Earlier this month in Frankfurt, the entire elite special operations division of the police force, the Spezialeinsatzkommando (SEK), was disbanded over allegations of far-right sympathies among officers.