Germany: Adaption of the German Press Council's regulation to online-specific circumstances

by Katrin Welke
On 18 March 2016, the German Press Council, a Journalists Union has announced changes to the Press Code, a tool for voluntary self-regulation of the German Press. The problem of applicability and implementation of the German Press Code for online publications and thereto related user comments was the issue of discussions for a long time. Now, a first solution regarding the complaints procedure about such publications and user comments has been found.

The public reprimand is the sharpest sanction that the Press Council can award. It is considered as fair reporting to publish such reprimands according to paragraph 16 of the Press Code. Thus, an Adaption of the Press Council's Complaints Regulations to online-specific circumstances took place by specifying that editors must inform readers of a reprimand for 30 days on the newspapers website.

According to changes made to § 15 para. 2 Press Code reprimands are to be published in appropriate form on the website where publication in question had been published. The Press Code specifies a publication of a reprimand on a website of a newspaper as „appropriate“ if the user will be informed about it in the moment he reads the article in question. Provided that the editorial staff adjusted the article in question in accordance with the reprimand it is dispensable to publish the reprimand for longer than 30 days.

Furthermore, the Press Council resolved a procedural modification referring to this: If editors are revising an ethically problematic reporting immediately by their own initiative, the Appeals Committee will consider this in its decision. The new regulations came into effect with their publication.

Katrin Welker works as a scientific researcher at the Institute of European Media Law (EMR), Saarbrücken/Brüssel.

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The press release of the Press Council is available in German language here.