Clashes with police at pro-Palestinian & feminist demonstrations
Police intervene at banned pro-Palestine protest in Berlin
In May 2022, a demonstration by Palestinian activists and supporters to mark Nakba day, which commemorates the displacement of Palestinians caused by the creation of the state of Israel in 1948, was denied permission by Berlin police. In a communication, police said that they assessed “an immediate risk” of “inflammatory, anti-Semitic exclamations” and violent behaviours, based on previous incidents. Among these, police mentioned pro-Palestinian gatherings that took place at the end of April, during which, according to police, violence, anti-Semitic exclamations and hatred were reported. Due to the “emotion” attached to Nakba Day, the police considered that it was too dangerous to allow any related demonstration. This decision was upheld by a court in Berlin and by the German appellate court, which rejected the demonstrators’ challenge of the ban. The same approach was used for other gatherings organised by Palestinians and their supporters from 29th April to 1st May. However, despite the ban, between 13th and 15th May 2022, several demonstrators who took part in the Nakba Day protests in Berlin were forcefully dragged and shoved, with some of them detained for up to two hours by the police. Around 20 people were arrested during the protests.
Human Rights Watch strongly condemned the decision by German authorities to ban the protests and highlighted that any restrictions on the freedom of peaceful assembly must be “necessary and proportionate”. The organisation also denounced pre-emptive measures based on speculation. In a letter to UN Special Rapporteur on racism, on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, and on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, Giovanni Fassina, Director of the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC) also denounced the anti-Arab and Anti-Palestinian racism demonstrated by German authorities, as well as the arbitrary and disproportionate limitation to fundamental freedoms.
Clashes with the police at protests against gender-based violence & for housing rights
On May Day, 1st May 2022, thousands of protesters marched in the centre of Berlin to demonstrate against several social issues, including access to housing and gender-based violence. Around 2,500 demonstrators joined the feminist protest against violence against women and marched under the slogan "Take back the night". A massive police presence was reported. On that occasion, some protesters were arrested. According to the Berlin Tagesspiegel newspaper, the arrests took place as a consequence of clashes between the police and protesters, which began once the police tried to remove some demonstrators from the street. The demonstration ended spontaneously after several clashes between protesters and police. Earlier that week, Iris Spranger, Berlin Senator for Interior, Digitalisation and Sport, declared that police were ready to intervene massively in case of violence, which she predicated as being a very likely scenario.
Es kommt zu ersten Auseinandersetzungen in der #takebackthenight-Demo: An der Torstraße gehen Polizisten mit Gewalt in den Frontblock, versuchen offenbar einzelne Leute aus der Demo zu ziehen. Es gab mindestens eine Festnahme, Demo steht #b3004 pic.twitter.com/pEGKADeQu0— Madlen Haarbach (@madlen_hapunkt) April 30, 2022
Several attacks on journalists during protests between May and June
- On 9th May 2022, Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 presenter Nataliya Moseichuk was physically attacked by a pro-Russian protester who also incited others to attack the journalist. The TV channel was covering the Russian 9th May commemorations.
- On 28th May 2022, journalist Leon Enrique Montero was pushed away by a policeman while he was covering demonstrations by members of the far left during the AFD congress in Hanover. The incident was caught on camera. A policeman also aggressively shouted at the journalist to leave the scene.
- On 1st June 2022, two journalists were attacked at a Querdenken demonstration in Munich. The journalists were reporting on the protest when Querdenker protesters harassed them and one of the protesters hit the camera they were using. Police intervened after the journalists called for help, pushing away the protesters. The journalists decided not to file a complaint.
- On 14th July 2022, freelance journalist David Speier was harassed by protesters staging an anti-COVID-19 vaccination protest in Hanover. After the demonstration, two protesters followed the journalist and one of them blasted a siren in his ears through a megaphone.
Journalist threatened by leading CSU politician
On 27th April 2022, CSU Secretary General Stephan Mayer threatened and insulted Manfred Otzelberger, a journalist at Bunte newspaper, who was investigating his alleged “secret child”. Mayer was asked for an interview by Otzelberger, who sent him the questions for the interview in advance, but the request was denied. Eventually, the CSU Secretary-General called the journalist and insulted and threatened him for several minutes. During the call Mayer threatened to “destroy” the journalist and make him pay 200,000 euros in damages. He also demanded that Otzelberger give him that amount of money the same day. On the same evening, the journalist reported a similar call. Hubert Burda Media, Bunte's media house, took legal action against Stephan Mayer. Following this, Stephan Mayer resigned from his position, citing health problems as the reason. Moreover, he declared: “In an interview with a Bunte journalist over a clearly illegal article, I may have used a choice of words which, in retrospect, I would not consider appropriate.”
Aggression at journalist's house
On 11th July 2022, blogger and photojournalist Robert Rutkowski was threatened by a man who showed up at the journalist's house shirtless, carrying a Kubotan - a Japanese stick - and a gun and screaming in the street. The man, who calls himself "Ansar" on Twitter, told the journalist that he was a “frontline fighter” and that he did not care if there were other people in the street, while filming himself and posting the video on Twitter. Rutkowski called the police, who confiscated Ansar's gun. The following day, on 12th July 2022, the man returned to Rutkowski's house asking to interview the journalist, and the police intervened again. The blogger decided to file a complaint for threats, insults, harassment and doxing, which eventually resulted in the Court of Dortmund ruling that for three months "Ansar" should not come within 100 meters of the journalist's flat, should not harass, abuse or threaten him, should not come within 100 metres of any contact with the journalist, not even by long-distance communication, and should not provoke meetings within 100 metres of random encounters.
Tagesspiegel loses appeal against German Chancellery over FOI request
On 8th June, after five years of legal procedures, the German daily newspaper Tagesspiegel lost an appeal against the German Chancellery over a freedom of information request before the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court. In May 2016 the newspaper filed a freedom of information request to the German chancellery in order to be able to report about an off-record conversation that happened between one of the newspaper's journalists and then Chancellor Angela Merkel concerning topics such as the refugee crisis, Brexit or how to work with the far-right AfD party, which the newspaper considered “urgent and in the public interest” to cover. One month later the Chancellery replied, denying permission. The Tagesspiegel then decided to refer the matter to the Administrative Court in an urgent procedure in July 2016, which was granted by the Administrative Court in December 2016 and rejected by the Higher Administrative Court in March 2017, as the case was not considered urgent. In parallel, the newspaper filed a regular lawsuit which was granted by the Administrative Court, which ordered the chancellery to disclose the place and time, but also to provide information about the discussions and participating media which attended meetings. The chancellery appealed the decision which was then overturned, as according to the court the German government had changed and could no longer testify on the facts.
The German Association of Journalists (DJV) denounced the court decision stating that
"It is unacceptable that a federal authority can push back media requests in the hope of obtaining court rulings favourable to the government. The Tagesspiegel filed a lawsuit five years before the Chancellor left office, only to be told by the court now: You are too late. This is absurd, especially because at first it was said that the matter was not urgent." - DJV Federal Chairman Frank Überall.
Violation of Palestinian activist’s digital rights recognised by Berlin Data Protection Authority
On 16th May 2022 the Berlin Data Protection Authority decided in favour of Dr Anna Younes, a German Palestinian academic, and issued a warning against VDK, the German state-funded organisation legally representing RIAS Berlin and MBR - organisations focused on the monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents - for violating Dr Younes' data rights protected by the European Data protection law (GDPR). This outcome followed a first decision in favour of Dr Younes, issued by a district court earlier in May 2022.
The decision of the Berlin Data Protection Authority (DPA) referred to the creation by RIAS/MBR of a secret dossier about Dr Younes which depicted her, through information gathered via digital surveillance methods and distorted, as an anti-Semitic, sexist and terrorist sympathiser. This dossier was sent by RIAS Berlin and MBR to the organisers of a panel to discuss strategies against right-wing extremism in Germany, to which she was invited in November 2019. This resulted in her invitation being withdrawn and her reputation being damaged.
In March 2020 Dr Younes requested access to her data from the two organisations, which was denied. With the assistance of the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), she initiated complaint proceedings with the DPA against RIAS and MBR.
In its recent ruling, the Berlin Data Protection Authority recognised the violation of the academic’s digital rights but evaluated that the creation of the secret dossier and its sharing with the event organisers was lawful. Giovanni Fassina, director of ELSC, declared that the decision regarding the legitimacy of the dossier would be appealed. Earlier the ELSC had launched a letter in support of Dr Anna Younes, signed by over 500 scholars, artists, activists, organisations and human rights defenders.
🔻German Palestinian scholar Dr. Anna-Esther Younes tells us how and why she has been surveilled and excluded from public debate.— European Legal Support Center (ELSC) (@elsclegal) April 8, 2022
Anti-democratic practices aimed at silencing Palestinian and decolonial voices in action! pic.twitter.com/RDcK8yZn7X