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Germany – (C5) Journalists’ job security

Score in short:

Journalists only have rudimentary legal protection.

Score in detail:

With regard to journalists’ job security, the unions provide quite a pessimistic outlook. First of all, the number of permanent staff in the newsrooms is declining, while the number of freelancers increases. One indicator of the increase in freelancers and decrease in permanent staff is the number of persons insured by the companies: This number has continued to fall over the past years (down 180 for the newspapers, down 410 for magazines). DJu also confirmed that round about 2/3 of their 22,000 current members are freelancers. In addition to that, there are cuts in jobs in many media companies, and the wages of permanent staff and freelancers have not increased over the past years. Many of the freelancers have very little money despite having a great deal of work. Especially since the financial crisis in 2008, staff reductions have taken place in every media company, DJV claims.

In Germany, the media are Tendenzbetriebe, which means that a company not only has economic but also cultural or political objectives. The government is not allowed to interfere in the political leanings of the news media – neither directly nor immediately through laws that, e.g., might allow a newspaper’s workers council to gain influence over the publisher’s inclinations. The rulings of the constitutional court and federal law are against any influence on the political leanings of the news media. On the other hand, publishers cannot force their editorial staff to follow their inclinations, i.e. a journalist is not bound to write an article expressing the publisher’s viewpoint. In such cases, freedom of expression and the dignity of man (basic principles of the German constitution) legally protect journalists from pressure, which can be interpreted as a clause de conscience. Only the federal state of Brandenburg derived from these constitutional principles a passage in its press law that contains the protection of journalists from the influence of publishers (Fechner 2008, pp. 217-220). Journalists’ unions do not report any case of reprisals on journalists based on their political opinions in the newsroom.