New legislation in the German parliament threatens to endanger basic rights of freedom of the press and the right of reporters to protect the anonymity of their sources. A bill is working its way through the Bundestag which compels telecom providers to make recording of all communications regardless of whether or not the person is under investigation or simply an individual communicating with family and friends. This storehouse of data would be made available to law enforcement agencies. In effect, it allows the government to pick and choose any data about any person who has communicated via telecom or the Internet. This legislation would make impossible for journalists to guarantee the right of privacy to sources when engaged in any aspect of investigative reporting. The proposed law also allows a judge to weigh the needs of prosecutors in deciding whether or not a journalist must be compelled to testify.
In a sense, we are witnessing George Bush’s export of anti-democratic processes in the pursuit of enabling democracy to triumph over the supposed forces of evil. The American Patriot Act is now being copied in many societies including Germany and Hungary. There is something terribly ironic in debasing democratic values in pursuit of gaining democratic values. But, we live in the age of Bush when words lose meaning and torture becomes an act of kindness. Hopefully, saner minds will halt passage of this law in Germany.