Fair accreditation by lottery? | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 29.04.2013
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Fair accreditation by lottery?

Journalists' seats for the trial of the neo-Nazi terror group NSU have been allocated by lottery. This ensures that foreign media can get seats but it means that many others will have to give up theirs.

Christian Fuchs was lucky. On March 5, 2013, he remembers, "I was basically scheduled to do some research but then I quickly checked my mails in the morning." That way he saw the mail from the Munich court in time: It arrived at 8:56 in the morning and said that the first 50 journalists who applied for accreditation would get a seat in the courtroom during the NSU trial in Munich.

The neo-Nazi National Socialist Underground (NSU) terror group was allegedly behind a string of 10 murders, nine of them carried out against immigrants. Within 15 minutes, Fuchs had all the paperwork he needed for the accreditation, sent it off and got seat number 27 for the much anticipated trial.

Christian Fuchs (photo: Christoph Busse)

Fuchs had a seat, but now probably has little chance of getting in

Today though, it doesn't seem as if Fuchs will be in the court room after all when the only surviving alleged member of the group, Beate Zschäpe, goes on trial on May 6.

The Munich court has accepted a decision by Germany's constitutional court which said that seats should have been allocated in a way that would ensure that foreign journalists also got seats.

Equal opportunities

As eight of the NSU victims were of Turkish origin, there's considerable interest on behalf of Turkish media in the trial. The constitutional court therefore decided that at least three Turkish journalists should get seats. But instead of just giving three new seats to Turkish media, the Munich court decided to have all the 50 press seats in the court newly distributed - this time by lottery. Journalists like Fuchs who registered in time for a seat are now left empty-handed.

The Munich court had "analyzed the decision by the constitutional court and weighed which procedure would be best to ensure equal chances," Andrea Titz, judge and press spokeswoman at the court told DW.

Protesters attend a rally against fascism and neo-Nazis (photo: REUTERS/Michael Dalder)

The NSU's alleged murders were the first major case of right-wing terrorism, and they shocked Germany

But because of the complicated lottery procedure, the trial had to be postponed by three weeks. Asked why they didn't simply put three more chairs into the room, Titz explained that "then there would have been the need for a new procedure for the Turkish journalists as to who would get those three seats. In the short time before the beginning of the trial this would not have been possible in a way that would ensure equal opportunities for all of this group."

Another problem would have been that other journalists then could have complained that they'd had to get their seats following different rules. "It is crucial that the procedure is the same for all journalists," Titz said.

Balanced distribution

For the purposes of the allocation, the journalists have been divided into three groups, each of which has several sub-categories. Group one consists of national and international news agencies; five of the 50 seats will go to that category, two of which are for German news agencies.

Group two is for foreign media. Out of the ten seats in that group, four are reserved for Turkish media and one for Greek media (one of the victims was of Greek origin). The remaining five seats have been distributed by lottery among all the foreign journalists.

Stühle sind am 16.01.2013 vor dem Gerichtssaal des Regensburger Amtsgerichts (Bayern) für die Presse reserviert. Foto: Armin Weigel/dpa

There will still be very limited seating, but at least it'll go to journalists from near and far

Group three is the largest, with 35 seats for German media. 13 seats were open to anyone; the rest were divided among subcategories such as daily newspapers, public radio or private television.

Two kinds of journalist are not represented with any group of their own: freelance journalists and those working for online media. Titz says one could always add groups, but then none of them would get enough seats for their needs.

For Christian Fuchs, the news that he would lose his spot in the courtroom came rather unexpectedly. "I was pretty surprised but also a bit shocked," the Leipzig-based journalist told DW. He does though agree that this time round it is right that foreign media have been taken into account. When he heard that no Turkish media had received a seat, he himself offered to give his seat to a Turkish colleague every second day. But the court didn't approve.

What he still find strange is that there wasn't a quota of seats for online journalists: "I find that remarkable in 2013 - it shows that the court has little idea about the structure of German media."

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