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Germany

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Last updated on 24.05.2019 at 11:21

Germany-Overview

Civic freedoms, including freedoms of association, peaceful assembly, and expression are widely respected in both law and practice in Germany.

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People take to the streets ahead of EU elections

People take to the streets ahead of EU elections

On 19th May 2019, ahead of the European Parliament elections, around 150.000 people took to the streets to raise their voices against nationalism and exclusion in Germany, including demostrations organised in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Munich, Stuttgart and Hamburg.

Peaceful Assembly

On 19th May 2019, ahead of the European Parliament elections, around 150.000 people took to the streets to raise their voices against nationalism and exclusion in Germany, including demostrations organised in Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt, Leipzig, Munich, Stuttgart and Hamburg. The organisers called all voters to participate in the European elections:

“It is more important than ever to take a stand for European community that stands together, a Europe in which democracy and the rule of law is realised beyond our borders.”

The protests have also seen support from political parties. Germany’s Minister of foreign affairs tweeted: “Join in, be loud! We are the majority, not those stuck in the past and the nationalists”.

Additional protests were held in Austria, Poland France, the UK and Bulgaria to show support for human rights, democracy, social justice and climate action ahead of the elections. 

In a separate incident, in several German cities, in March 2019, thousands of people took to the streets to protest the new EU copyright legislation. In particular, they expressed concern about Article 13 which critics stated "could force online content platforms to adopt ‘upload filters’ to strongly vet user-uploaded content for copyright infringing material, and that this in turn would produce a number of issues, and will generally speaking lead to less freedom and more censorship of the internet." 

The legislation that passed in the European Parliament on 26th March has not only caused waves of protests in Germany but also in Prague, Paris, Amsterdam and Athens. According to the German television news service “Tagesschau” the biggest protest took place in Munich where 40.000 participants were counted, in Berlin 10.000 people joined the protest. The slogans for the manifestations were similar throughout the cities: “The internet must stay as it is”, “Don’t destroy our internet” or “Stop Article 13”.

Association

Article 9 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany guarantees the right of all Germans to form corporations and other associations.

Article 9 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany guarantees the right of all Germans to form corporations and other associations. In practice, NGOs, formal and informal associations, and trade unions are free to operate without state interference. Non-state interference with the activities of CSO and human rights defenders appears to be on the rise however. In 2016, the German Institute for Human Rights reported: ‘with the new refugee situation and assistance in Germany, those active in work with refugees have become a target for hatred and violence. According to the estimates of civil society organisations, this threat is often not sufficiently recognised by government agencies.’

Peaceful Assembly

Article 8 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany guarantees the right of all Germans to assemble.

Article 8 of the Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany guarantees the right of all Germans to assemble peacefully and unarmed, and without prior notification or permission. Protests are common, and the right is respected in practice, with exceptions for groups espousing Nazism or opposing democratic order.

Expression

Freedom of expression is protected in the constitution, and journalists and the media are largely free and independent.

Freedom of expression is protected in the constitution, and journalists and the media are largely free and independent. Hate speech, advocating Nazism, and denial of the Holocaust has long been punishable under German law. Germany’s criminal code currently contains a provision which makes it illegal to insult foreign heads of state. In April 2016, German authorities acceded to a request from Turkish President Erdoğan, to commence investigations against a German satirist, Jan Böhmermann, prompting concerns about the German government’s commitment to free speech. However, In October 2016, prosecutors announced that charges would not be pursued against Böhmermann. Rights groups have documented a rise in hate speech via social media in Germany, with most of it targeted at non-Germans, refugees and LGBTI people.