Germany: Daily newspaper „taz“ allowed to publish picture of a politician with a stretched out arm (which looks like a Hitler salute)

by Ingo Beckendorf
The German daily newspaper „taz“ is allowed to show a picture of the German politician and right-wing populist Björn Höcke from the right-wing party “Alternative für Deutschland (AfD)” with his right arm stretched out. Although, the photo may not be shown in combination with the initially chosen headline “Hitler salute in occident”.

Daily newspaper „taz“ allowed to publish picture of a politician with a stretched out arm Daily newspaper „taz“ allowed to publish picture of a politician with a stretched out arm (Screenshot:

That was decided by District Court (Landgericht) Erfurt by verdict of 22nd of June 2016 (r.n. 3 O 554/16). According to the opinion of the chief judge, the publication of the picture showing the AfD-group leader of the district Thüringen in the critical pose constitutes no violation of Höcke’s personal rights, but the original headline does.

The disputed photo was made during an appearance of Höcke at the cathedral square in Erfurt. The occasion was an AfD-demonstration against plans to build a new mosque. While speaking, Höcke made a circular movement with his right arm and was photographed exactly in that moment when his arm looked like he was doing the Hitler salute.

The daily newspaper taz released a report about the demonstration on 20th of May on its homepage and wrote “Hitler salute in occident” as headline. After that, Höcke requested a cease-and-desist letter from the editorial office, which they refused. But, the editorial office changed the headline in “Höcke takes measure”. The politician tried to reach a preliminary injunction against the publication at the District Court Erfurt, but without success. Then, he brought an action against the newspaper.

According to the judges in Erfurt, the publication of the picture constitutes no violation of Höcke’s general personality rights. In the view of the District Court, the right to freedom of the press of the editors outweighs Höcke’s personality rights. Therefore, the publication of the photo showing the politician with a stretched out arm is no illegal conduct.

But, as far as the headline “Hitler salute in occident” is concerned, the Court found a clear violation of law. According to the judges, the headline leads to the impression that Höcke was showing a Hitler salute with his stretched out arm. Considering that the Hitler salute is a crime in Germany according to § 86a and § 130 German Penal Code, making that impression is a violation of Höcke’s personal rights. Höcke considers appealing the decision, to force the daily newspaper to delete the photo.

The politician also sued the prime minister of the District Thüringen, Bodo Ramelow from the party Die Linke for compensation because Ramelow retweeted the report in question about Höcke without a comment. The case is still pending.

Ingo Beckendorf works as scientific assistant in the Institute Of European Law (EMR) in Saarbrücken/Brüssel.


German version

Creative Commons LicenseThis article is licensed under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.
Source information: This article was originally published by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom –