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Germany – (C6) Practice of access to information

Score in short:

Formally the access to information and to governmental documents is unlimited, though it does not work in a completely satisfactory manner in daily practice.

Score in detail:

Since 2006, the Freedom of Information Act (Informationsfreiheitsgesetz) allows citizens and journalists access to governmental documents. This law obligates all state authorities (national, regional or local) to provide access to requested information for all citizens (Branahl 2006, p. 32; Fechner 2008, pp. 46-49). The journalists’ unions claim that state authorities still constrain access to requested documents.

Another problem is the abolishment of journalists’ privilege to refuse to give evidence in Germany. Journalists can no longer protect their sources in court, which is particularly problematic when reporting on the government and big companies using information from whistleblowers. Furthermore, journalists have to agree to be checked by state authorities or even the intelligence service in the wake of an increasing number of events. An accreditation more often depends on journalists’ permission to save and check their data.