German far right in legal battle over free speech

A German far-right party’s legal challenge against the German postal service over its refusal to deliver the party’s magazine will be decided in the Federal High Court in September.

A leader in the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) said on Friday the challenge on freedom of speech grounds was raised by NPD deputies in the Saxony state assembly, one of two state assemblies in Germany where the far-right party has seats.

Holger Szymanski, a spokesman for the NPD in the Saxony parliament, said the party believes its constitutional rights to free speech are being violated by the postal service’s refusal to distribute its newsletter, “Klartext”.

“From our perspective, ‘Klartext’ is quite obviously a magazine,” said Szymanski, whose party is seen by police agencies as the most significant neo-Nazi party in Germany since the end of the Third Reich.

The postal service is the latest company to run into a legal challenge from the NPD. Since 2008 it has refused to send out “Klartext” in the Leipzig region.

Lower state and district courts in Saxony have backed the postal service’s position regarding “Klartext” and said it should not be considered a magazine but rather propaganda intolerant of different opinions. The high court said on Thursday it would issue its ruling in September.

Under German law, all newspapers must be distributed by the postal service in accordance with the principles of free speech and freedom of information.

“Political content does not play a role in the juridical decision,” said Joachim Bornkamm, chief justice at the High Court of Justice, in comments that opened the trial on Thursday.

Because ‘Klartext’ is distributed to non-subscribers, much like advertising pamphlets, its status as a newspaper has come under question. Many Germans view it as a vehicle for nationalist propaganda rather than a news source.

This dispute is only the latest in a series as German companies attempt to avoid interactions with the NPD. In 2003, Sparkasse Bank, a savings bank, attempted to shut down the party’s bank account, but was overruled by the Federal Court.

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One Response to “German far right in legal battle over free speech”
  1. Food for thought says:
    Paradox of tolerance
    The tolerance paradox arises from a problem
    that a tolerant person might be antagonistic toward intolerance,
    hence intolerant of it.
    The tolerant individual would then be by definition intolerant of intolerance.
    This problem is at the heart of the dilemma
    faced by pluralist societies who wish to embrace diversity,
    but in doing so ostensibly exclude those who do not embrace diversity.
    [Click on the 5 links provided by wikipedia ]
    The Open Society and Its Enemies (1945)
    The so-called paradox of freedom is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek. The idea is, in a slightly different form, and with very different tendency, clearly expressed in Plato.
    Less well known is the paradox of tolerance: Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them. — In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument; they may forbid their followers to listen to rational argument, because it is deceptive, and teach them to answer arguments by the use of their fists or pistols. We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal.
    Vol. 1, Notes to the Chapters: Ch. 7, Note 4
    Karl Popper on the paradox of tolerance – 17/09/11

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