Germany: Media firms hand unpublished G20 riot footage to cops

Just days after police raided dozens of properties nationwide it has emerged that Hamburg cops were given hundreds of gigabytes of raw footage by major media firms.

The results of an information request made by sympathetic figures in the German Parliament suggests that a special “Black Bloc Commission” instituted to crack down on anarchists in the wake of June’s week-long G20 confrontation in Hamburg has been asking firms for data as part of a campaign of repression. It is thought they have acquired at least 15 hours of previously unseen film, but it could be substantially more.

Germany has been in the grip of a moral panic since the riots, which saw Germany’s federal police repeatedly humiliated after a ham-fisted attempt to repress peaceful protests in Hamburg’s famously discontented Schanze neighbourhood. The subsequent State backlash has seen dozens of jailings and the shutdown of Indymedia Linksunten in August, prompting heavy criticism over the government’s chilling attitude towards free speech.

The most recent handover has caused consternation in anarchist circles and even in the liberal press, which has expressed concern that reporters who are seen to have directly collaborated with the police cannot then present themselves as independent recorders of news and may put more principled journalists at risk of reprisal. Speaking to media magazine ZAPP, former FDP justice minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger said:

First of all, the principle of keeping editorial secrets is first and foremost there to protect the freedom of the press and freedom of opinion, which is legally anchored … you can not ask the media to become a kind of auxiliary policeman.

On these materials are also persons who have nothing to do with the incident, from which no violence has come and who have a right not to be associated with violence.

Hamburg police have previously threatened to seize “relevant” materials rather than asking, and made good on those threats during the December 5th raids when they scooped up laptops and storage media. but firms such as media giant RTL — which owns Fremantle in the UK — have proven more than willing to do their job for them. RTL said in a statement that it considered such collaboration “our duty.”

Some editors however had more reservations, with SZ editor Heribert Prantl offering a pragmatic reminder that similar information giveaways during anti-nuclear protests in the 1970s and ’80s led to attacks on journalists: “Cameramen and journalists were pelted with stones at the next demos.”

Rote Hilfe e.V. federal board member Heiko Lange said of the recent police actions:

We strongly condemn the raids and demand the release of confiscated storage media. This seems to be an attempt to portray a demonstration against the G20 summit as an all-violent group in order to condemn all activists even without concrete charges of breach of the peace.

Both here and in many other places, fundamental rights have been massively restricted and many activists, as well as journalists and bystanders, have been affected. Instead of working consistently, now these searches have been carried out in a way which looks martial. It seems this is being done to intimidate the leftist movement.


Pic: A press photographer covers events at the G20, by Montecruz Foto