German reporters Markus Beckedahl and Andre Meister of political website Netzpolitik are the first in over fifty years to be investigated on treason charges, after revealing German plans to expand Internet surveillance.
The report, which was first documented in February this year, sparked a viral trend in Germany against surveillance. It was followed by another report in April claiming Germany wanted access to social networks and other online activity, to store for an extended amount of time. The German Secret Service were in charge of rolling out this additional surveillance.
The Federal Attorney General of Germany, Harald Range, started the investigation after finding out Netzpolitik had been receiving the information from an inside source. Range wanted to find the source and have them sentenced, along with the journalists.
Netzpolitik fought back against the charges, claiming the invasive surveillance being pushed deserved to be publicised. They also claimed an attack on the source overruled the Freedom of the Press, which ensures that whistleblowers remain a vital part of journalistic work.
Since the first reveal of an investigation, the German people have spoken with a rally against the surveillance laws. The German government have halted the investigation, and justice minister Heiko Maas is calling for the resignation and retirement of Harald Range.
It is an interesting turn in the case, considering Maas claimed the push for Range’s resignation came after a meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel. This move either means Merkel didn’t know about the surveillance plans, or wants to leave the impression the government is not behind it.
Either way, surveillance in Germany is a much more worrisome thought than in the US or UK, where it has never been prominent. During Nazi German times, the Gestapo ran surveillance throughout the nation, to hunt down the Jews and anti-government movements. Remembrance of the police state still haunts a lot of Germans, who do not want to see the same thing happen on the Internet.