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Accountable Journalists?

DW staff (win)November 22, 2006

German constitutional judges on Wednesday began hearing the complaint of the editor of a magazine, whose offices had been searched by investigators following publication of classified material.

Judges are not expected to decide the case until next yearImage: AP

Wolfram Weimer, editor of Cicero magazine, brought the case before Germany's highest court, claiming that the raid of his offices represented a violation of press freedom.

Law enforcement officials searched Cicero headquarters and the home of one of its reporters after information from a classified report from the Federal Criminal Police on the late Iraqi terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was published in the magazine.

Prosecutors subsequently filed charges against Weimer, claiming that he abetted the betrayal of state secrets. The case was later dropped. Weimer said government officials were simply trying to find out who had passed on the information. He added that this represented a threat to journalists, who could no longer guarantee the anonymity of their sources.

Government officials on Wednesday meanwhile argued that such protection was not possible.

"A journalist can commit a crime if he publishes state secrets that have been divulged by a civil servant," said Lutz Diwell, a deputy minister in Germany's department of justice.

Judges, on the other hand, questioned whether journalists could still be held accountable as accomplices once the secrets had been revealed by government officials.

A ruling in the case is not expected until 2007.