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Germany

Blacklisting Violent Media

The German government wants to impose age limits on violent computer games. It has proposed new regulations in response to the school shootings in Erfurt, the country’s worst postwar massacre.

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Violent computer games like "Counterstrike" might be banned in Germany in the near future.

In a quick response to the Erfurt killings, Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s cabinet has released a series of new proposals aimed at limiting children’s access to violent computer games and videos.

The proposals would expand the scope of the government watchdog agency that currently bans printed material it deems dangerous for youth. In the future, the agency would have the power to investigate and classify all media, including films, videocassettes, CD-ROMs, DVDs and music CDs. It could then put computer games or videos it deems dangerous on its so-called "Index", or blacklist, and would have the power to ban their distribution.

"Dangerous" media could include that which glorifies war, is gratuitously violent, leads to violence and criminal behavior or incites racial hatred.

The government also proposed classifying and labeling computer games according to age. Those caught selling or renting children games classified for adults would face fines or other legal action.

The Erfurt killings have pushed the issue of teen violence high on the political agenda ahead of general elections in September. Police say the Erfurt killer, Robert Steinhäuser, owned many violent videos as well as computer games focused on gunning down enemies.

The Federal Minister for Family Affairs, Christine Bergmann, said the lightning fast development of media had made an amendment of current law necessary.

Will It Work?

There was criticism of the quick proposals from the opposition conservative Christian Democrats. Christoph Böhr warned his political colleagues from taking action blindly.

"What good does a ban do us, " he asked, "when our children can simply download the games from providers in Japan, Singapore or the US?"

He added that even the Chancellor knows such a ban is not workable.

The proposed new laws are part of an overall reform of the country’s laws on the protection of minors, which could go into effect as soon as July 12.

Other proposals include limiting alcohol and tobacco advertising in cinemas and modifying cigarette vending machines so that only those with special chip cards could buy from them.

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