In German jurisprudence, the Spiegel judgment is the judgment of the Federal Constitutional Court of August 5, 1966. In this judgment, the Federal Constitutional Court emphasized the public task of the press for democratic decision-making and called for effective precautions to be taken to protect the free press.
On October 10, 1962, the magazine Der Spiegel reported on the military situation in Germany and NATO under the title “Conditionally ready for defense”. On suspicion of treason, an arrest warrant and a search warrant were issued against Rudolf Augstein as a publisher and against the editor in charge, Conrad Ahlers , as well as other Spiegel editors. The premises of the Spiegel publishing house in Hamburg and Bonn were then searched and extensive material was confiscated. Spiegel-Verlag filed a constitutional complaint against the search and seizure orders .
Summary of the judgment
The Federal Constitutional Court rejected the constitutional complaint.
The court found that in a democratic state the press performed a public task. The free press is an essential factor in the democratic decision-making process. The freedom of the press in Paragraph 1, Clause 2 of the Basic Law therefore also provides an institutional guarantee for free press. On the one hand, this includes the private-sector structure of the press company, but on the other hand it also includes a state obligation to ward off the risk of monopolies of opinion and information resulting from press concentration.
After the court has abstracted the importance of the press and the freedom of the press, the specific restriction of the freedom of the press through the search and seizure due to the code of criminal procedure is weighed against the security of the state and the suspicion of treason . Although the Federal Constitutional Court recognizes that the population must also be informed about important events in defense policy, it rates the suspicion of treason as more serious and regards the search and seizure as an appropriate means of investigating the suspicion. The existence of the state is thus given greater weight here.
The constitutional complaint was dismissed in the event of a tie. The constitutional judges, who did not support the justification, rated the freedom of the press higher.
For the reasons
- “A free press, not controlled by public authority and not subject to censorship, is an essential element of the free state; in particular, a free, regular press is indispensable for modern democracy. ... In it public opinion is articulated. ... In representative democracy, the press is also a permanent liaison and control body between the people and their elected representatives in parliament and government. "
- “Press companies must be able to develop freely in social space. You work according to private-sector principles and in organizational forms under private law. They are in intellectual and economic competition with one another, in which public authorities are fundamentally not allowed to intervene. ... but one could also think of a duty of the state to ward off dangers that could arise for a free press from the formation of monopolies of opinion. "
Consequences of the judgment
- BVerfGE 20, 162 to 230.