Meeting with “the average reader” in court

The Regional Court of Dusseldorf is currently hearing two press law cases, which are in the long shadow of the German-Chilean Colonia Dignidad

In both cases, the founder of the evangelical Free People’s Mission e.V. in Krefeld, Ewald Frank. As "Affected" In the spirit of the Stolpe ruling, it has ied temporary restraining orders against freelance journalist Harald Neuber (Az. 12 O 478/11) and against the editor of the Rheinische Post, Dr. Sebastian Peters (Az. 12 O 473/11), obtained in several points. The plaintiff thinks that by choosing certain words, they were creating a false impression in the reader’s mind. The journalists had reported in different media about the proximity of former members of the Colonia Dignidad to the people mission. Neuber did it among other things here on Telepolis (Federal government wants to know nothing about Colonia Dignidad), Peters in the Rheinische Post.

Among other things, it is disputed whether or not the former vice-chief of Colonia Dignidad, Hartmut Hopp, and other former cult members who may have held leadership positions were on the premises of the People’s Mission. In a press release, Frank writes that it was not a matter of "Functionaries" acted, but around "Victims", who had suffered under the religious despotism of the now deceased cult leader Paul Schafer.

The plaintiff has obtained two temporary restraining orders to protect his personhood. With this appeal he wanted to achieve that the two defendants refrain in the future from certain auberungen. On 30. November 2011 the first hearing in both proceedings took place in Dusseldorf. The court wants to have made its decision before Christmas. Depending on the outcome, the parties involved will decide whether to proceed to the main proceedings or accept the judge’s decision.

I could now continue in this matter-of-fact style to report on the two trap. I have already done. Here I prefer to write openly in the first person and address you directly, because you also appear in these and other press-related proceedings, although you may not be aware of it.

They appear there in the figure "of the average reader" on. The ladies of the crop must now feel excluded, because the male variant dominates and virtually elevates one to the rank of knight "Claim to sole representation". Perhaps there would be neither these proceedings nor this article if a real-life business had existed "Average reader" had read the offending text passages. But this is where the problem lies: "Average earner" and "Average wage earner" can be determined fairly accurately, not so "the average reader".

Unknown entity "Average reader"

I must confess to you that as a journalist I am not familiar with the term "Average reader" can’t do anything about. In the press law proceedings that I have experienced or observed, I have again been surprised at the lack of definition of the term "press law". As someone with an academic education, I can imagine that every medium has a "average readership" who can be described by scientific methods. Only the advertising department of a publishing house was allowed to be interested in who as "Average reader" and "Average reader" of the in-house media products applies.

This is the crux of press law proceedings: I have the impression that it is not the case that "of the average reader" especially well with the lawyer of the other side. Furthermore, he seems to have the gift of impressing many a court with his quasi undisputed authority over the interpretation of the German language. Defendants who do not have him as a friend usually have bad cards in press law proceedings, because there where "the average reader" he does it like the joker in a card game: He always comes up trumps.

That I am not alone with my subjective impressions, proves among other things this discussion among jurists, who claim the sole representation and the prasence of the star "of the average reader" as well as the absence "the average reader" controversial.

Regardless of this, as a journalist I have very little to do with this elusive entity in terms of press law. This has less to do with ignorance and stubbornness than with life and professional experience. I write for different media at home and abroad. Depending on the medium, I always have a specific target group in my mind’s eye, but never "the average reader".

Regardless of this, it is up to you to decide, firstly, whether you want to be "the average reader" of a particular medium want to be categorized or its "Claim of sole representation" might have questioned. You have to face this question, because the combination of interim injunction and "Stolpe judgment", which I will come to in a moment, has an impact on journalistic work. But one after the other. First a look back at Colonia Dignidad.

The long shadow of Colonia Dignidad

German-born Hartmut Hopp escaped from his adopted Chilean country before a verdict became legally binding. A court had sentenced him and other officials of the "Colony Was" sentenced to five years in prison for aiding and abetting child abuse. The doctor ran the hospital of that remote facility where cult leader Schafer preyed on boys in at least 25 traps. The Chilean justice punished the latter in 2006 with 20 years of imprisonment. When Schafer died in 2010, he took many secrets with him to the grave.

His Colonia not only produced agricultural products, but also served the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet (1973-1990) as a torture center and weapons laboratory, where biological and chemical warfare agents were also developed. Hopp was Schafer’s right-hand man. He kept in touch not only with Pinochet and his secret service DINA, but also with Germany, where he joined the CSU. Leading CSU politicians and the German media were already talking about the bloody military coup.

ooking about Hopp’s role in Colonia Dignidad and his alleged knowledge of, or even participation in, crimes, a 32-page statement from the European Center of Constitutional and Human Rights, a nongovernmental organization, says. Criminal charges have been filed against the physician; the Krefeld public prosecutor’s office is investigating.

The Hopp case is doubly explosive. On the one hand, Chile is pressing for the extradition of the fugitive from justice, but according to Article 16.2 of the Basic Law, the Federal Republic does not surrender its state burghers. This circumstance does not exactly encourage Chilean society’s attempts to come to terms with the crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship and to punish them under criminal law. On the other hand, Berlin must fear that the cooperation between the Bonn Republic and the former rulers in Santiago de Chile will come to light. In this context Colonia Dignidad had a key function. A comprehensive clarification and punishment of all criminal actions, as once suggested by Federal Minister Joschka Fischer, is still pending. However, this did not happen in the two cases at the Dusseldorf Regional Court. There it concerns among other things "Ambiguity" of the term "Sanctuary".

What means "Keeping refuge"?

In the case of Neuber the court loved to see through that it inclines to the view of the defendant, according to which "Providing refuge" to be understood spatially. Thus it is up to the journalist to prove that Hopp stayed on the premises of the People’s Mission in Krefeld. With reference to the source protection Neuber refuses to reveal the names of his witnesses who want to have seen the fugitive from justice there.

In the film probably the Ture would have been blown up and the "Weibe Ritter" in the form of a paralegal or a private detective had presented the final piece of evidence or the eyewitness to give the case the decisive twist. This act did not take place, as in the rest of the trials of this kind are most suitable to wash out of the head the false image that court shows and impactful TV productions from overseas have implanted there.

Consequently, Neuber is faced with the decision to reveal his sources and thus perhaps win the case or to sign the declaration of failure to cooperate. To this situation also the so-called "Stolpe ruling" contributed.

Stolpe verdict

The Federal Criminal Court ruled (Az. 1 BvR 1696/98) 2005 that in the case of ambiguous statements, the interpretation of the person concerned is decisive for a claim of ineligibility, since in the future it is supposed to be possible to formulate unambiguously.

How narrow this interpretation is in the present case in the use of the word "Refuge" A look into the German universal word book of the Duden publishing house (1989) shows that the word "Putin" is not a word of the same meaning. Accordingly, the term describes, firstly, a "Place", but also "jmd.[someone] you go to in need, for protection, for help". Secondly, he stands as a synonym for "Security (for a persecuted, distressed person)".

The Stolpe judgement "Affected" decides which definition suits him in order to justify his claim to sublongevity. For the defendant, this means that in the future he must look carefully at what meaning certain words can have and what consequences their use can entail. Scientists work at this point with definitions and footnotes, online journalists with links, not so their colleagues from the print press.

What bothers me the most is the arbitrariness with which "Affected" The people are allowed to smoke an interpretation of a term that suits them and to neglect others, although the Duden as a recognized reference book lists several meanings. This is where the sovereignty of interpretation is revealed "of the average reader" in its full range.

Since Duden and comparable works no longer serve as a reference, prevention is now called for if journalists do not want to be dragged through the mills of press law proceedings. A seminar on "’trip-free’ writing of sensitive topics" could certainly be helpful. Just like a database with "stumbling" Terms like "To take refuge" or "profit". Besides my Duden corrector I also became a "Stolpe-Warner" into my text program when it points out the ambiguity of certain terms to me.

A rogue, who thinks now of the scissors in the head or means, with which "Stolpe ruling" Thumbscrews were ready to restrict writing about certain topics and people. How controversial the "Stolpe"-is jurisprudence, proves among other things the contribution Einschuchterung or necessary protection of the personality? of media lawyer Roger Mann.

"intercalation or necessary protection of the personhood?"

The defendants will decide whether they will be held liable by the application of the "Stolpe judgment" to feel smothered or not. From my own experience I know what effect each of the three injunctions I received on a particular subject had, because each one imposed on me a fine of 250.000 euros threatened. It makes you think whether you want to talk about the ie during the ongoing proceedings or not. If you go into stand-by, it hurts especially, because others are now working off the field. In the case of freelance journalists, this can lead to financial losses. It can be especially expensive if court and legal fees are not covered by legal insurance. On a completely different level are the lawyers’ letters, which, depending on the opposing side, also target the defendant’s personality. As a receiver one or the other auberung can be seen as "honorable" or even "insulting" but as a rule they are legal "borderline", that is, they are still legal.

Depending on the context, duration and intensity of such a procedure, one may wonder whether the ie was worth all the stress. At the end, one could at least understand why it is never about justice in court, but always about a verdict.

I have never been able to identify with the role of Don Quixote, but according to my procedures I could at least understand why he rode against windmills: He saw ghosts in them; I was forced to fight against "the average reader".

Whether the reporting guild and interested lawyers alone will succeed in fighting it down, I dare to doubt at the moment. Society is much more in demand. It should decide whether, in addition to "Staatsburger" and "Wutburger" also the "Anger readers" join in, which help, "the average reader" from the press chambers.

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