Press law

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The press law is a part of the media law , which deals with the legal framework of the press is concerned.

Legislative competence

In the Federal Republic of Germany , the press is reserved for the legislative competence of the federal states. Thus, the press law for each individual federal state results from the respective state press law . Until the federalism reform came into force on September 1, 2006, the federal government was empowered to issue a press law framework under the Basic Law. However, he did not make use of this option. The framework legislative competence was abolished in the course of the federalism reform. Legislative competence for press law now rests solely with the federal states.
In fact, the regulations in the press laws of the federal states are largely the same; there are only differences in a few details.

Press term

Under the press in the sense of the state press laws, one understands first of all all print products suitable and intended for distribution (so-called printed works ) that appear once or periodically, regardless of content, price or level. In addition to the classic printed matter, the simple legal press term also includes other embodiments of thought content, such as B. audio books or CD-ROM . The scope of the constitutional press term and its demarcation from the term broadcasting in broadcasting law is controversial . B. with regard to Internet newspapers (keyword: electronic press ).

Requirements for the press

Journalistic due diligence

A central requirement of the press is compliance with journalistic or journalistic due diligence when reporting. It is a general media law principle that is legally anchored in the press laws of the federal states for embodied press products. In the specialist literature, the professional rules of the press in the press code of the German Press Council are sometimes used as an interpretation aid for determining the legal due diligence requirements. The responsibility is borne by the respective press organ, which in turn contractually obliges its employees to comply.

Specifically, the journalistic duty of care means that the content, origin and truthfulness of news must be checked before publication and that the news may not be reproduced in a misleading way. Unconfirmed reports or rumors must be marked as such. Comments must be clearly separated from the reporting. In the FAZ this was done z. B. formerly through headings in Fraktur .

The greater the extent to which the reporting may encroach on the rights of third parties, the higher the requirements for due diligence. On the other hand, the obligation can also be weakened if the same content has already been published elsewhere without objection or if it comes from a reputable source, e.g. B. from a news agency .

The rights of third parties that must be observed when reporting include, above all, general personal rights . There is a weighing of interests between the basic rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press on the one hand and the general right of personality on the other. The following applies: the greater the public interest in an event, the more likely it is that a judicial review will weigh up the interests in favor of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

Imprint obligation, responsible editor

The imprint obligation ensures that in the event of an infringement of the law, the name and address of the printer, publisher and, in the case of periodicals, the responsible editor ( ViSdP ) are evident from the embodied press product . In the case of newspapers, a responsible editor is generally to be appointed for each department.


Paid publications, in particular advertisements and other advertising content, must be recognizable as such or be identified.


Inadmissible statements that interfere with the privacy rights of the person concerned can result in civil law claims by the injured party against the press. In order for the individual to be able to comment on allegations of fact concerning him, a right of reply is anchored in the press laws for embodied press products .

Privilege the press

The press is free and does not require approval. In Germany, freedom of the press is guaranteed by Article 5, Paragraph 1, Sentence 2 of the  Basic Law .

There is a right to information ( right to information ) vis-à-vis authorities and government agencies ; in the case of official announcements, the authorities must treat the various newspapers equally.

In the context of the offenses against insults of §§ 185ff StGB and also the civil law tort law , journalists can rely on the justification of the safeguarding of legitimate interests according to § 193 StGB. The prerequisite, however, is that it is not a formal insult , that there is a legitimate public interest in information and that journalistic due diligence has been observed.

In criminal proceedings , journalists generally have a special right to refuse to testify (Section 53 (1) No. 5 StPO), although this can be restricted to investigate crimes and certain serious crimes (see Spiegel judgment ), but there is also a minimum level of protection in favor of informants then. In contrast to the right to refuse to testify for clergy, defense lawyers and members of parliament, the journalistic right to refuse to testify does not include the determination of telephone connection data (Section 100h II 1 StPO). This means that, especially in the case of crimes committed by telephone, the public prosecutor's office can request the telephone provider to hand over the telephone connection data of a journalist even in the case of minor offenses. This is in stark contrast to the ban on confiscating self-researched material, so that this relatively new provision of the StPO is sharply criticized.

There is also a ban on confiscation (Section 97 (5) of the Code of Criminal Procedure) for material researched by journalists themselves. It includes documents, data carriers and other materials that are in the custody of editorial offices, publishers or a printing company. The prohibition of seizure can also be restricted, but the restriction must be expressly weighed against the freedom of the press and ordered by a judge.

When processing data, the press is partially exempt from the restrictions of the Federal Data Protection Act due to the media privilege, insofar as this is necessary for journalistic and editorial purposes.

Liability for content

In principle, the respective author or editor is responsible for his own contribution. In addition, however, the distributors' liability also intervenes, which is the responsibility of the press organ itself, or of the publisher or the editor-in-chief (possibly also of the wholesaler, printer or bookseller) for their own content and third-party content that is distributed. The prerequisite for distributors' liability is that a monitoring obligation has been violated. As an exception, there is no liability for the content of third parties if the press organ expressly distances itself from the statement, or if only a dispute is reported. In addition, there is criminal liability (e.g. from §§ 19, 20 HmbPresseG) if a breach of duty of supervision by the editor or publisher results in the publication being a criminal offense.

Press concentration

The press concentration is part of the media concentration . The corporate links are partially shown in the KEK media database .


There are few busy press courts, as the proceedings focus on the few courts where the plaintiff has the highest chance of success. Most of the plaintiffs' attorneys submit their complaints to the regional courts of Hamburg, Berlin and Cologne (as of 2012). The admissibility of this procedure results from the so-called flying jurisdiction .

If a judge at one of the preferred courts nevertheless initially refuses to issue the requested ruling, an attempt is often made to influence the judge by telephone. According to an unnamed plaintiff's representative, "renegotiations" will then take place over the phone. The success rate of this behavior is about a third. In a further third of the cases, you can get advice on how to change the order in order to be successful. For the remaining third, you have to accept no and hope for the next instance after the application has been rejected.

The former BGH judge Joachim Bornkamm criticized the fact that the injunction is often issued without the other side being heard . He considers this to be a "mistake and abuse". Twenty years ago - he himself was a press judge at the time - he remembers that it never happened that a court had the idea of ​​condemning omissions without hearing. If necessary, they called the publisher and gave them a few hours to counter.


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. See e.g. B. Eva-Maria Löhner, in: Martin Löffler: Pressrecht. 5th edition, Munich 2006, § 7 LPG marginal number 15ff. mwNew.
  2. See e.g. B. Eva-Maria Löhner, in: Martin Löffler: Pressrecht. 5th edition, Munich 2006, § 7 LPG marginal number 28ff. mwNew.
  3. To this z. B. Arthur Waldenberger: Press law on the Internet and "electronic press" . In: Gerald Spindler, Fabian Schuster: Law of the Electronic Media. Comment . Munich 2008, p. 421ff. mwNew.
  4. See e.g. B. § 6 State Press Act Baden-Württemberg.
  5. See Joachim Löffler, in: Martin Löffler: Presserecht. 5th edition, Munich 2006, p. 1088 with additional information.
  6. See Erich Steffen, in: Martin Löffler: Pressrecht. 5th edition, Munich 2006, § 6 LPG No. 153ff. mwNew.
  7. See Erich Steffen, in: Martin Löffler: Pressrecht. 5th edition, Munich 2006, § 6 LPG No. 38ff., 54ff. mwNew.
  8. See e.g. B. §§ 8, 9 State Press Act Baden-Württemberg.
  9. See e.g. B. § 10 State Press Act Baden-Württemberg.
  10. See e.g. B. § 11 State Press Act Baden-Württemberg.
  11. Thomas Fischer, Commentary on the Criminal Code, 65th edition 2018, Rn. 28a to Section 193 of the Criminal Code
  12. Jürgen Dahlkamp, ​​Barbara Schmid: Press law: "Cologne takes it all" . In: Der Spiegel . No. 42 , 2014 ( online ).