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Journalist Henryk M. Broder: Interference with personal rights

Photo: Eberhard Thonfeld / IMAGO

In the dispute over the publication of statements by the journalist Henryk M. Broder, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) has to remove text passages from its homepage. This was decided by the Berlin-Brandenburg Higher Administrative Court (OVG), as Broder's lawyer, Joachim Nikolaus Steinhöfel, announced on Sunday. The “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” had previously reported on it.

This is what it's about: After the attack in Hanau in February 2020, in which nine people were killed for racist motives, the BMI set up an Independent Expert Group on Muslimphobia (UEM). He prepared a study that went online on the ministry's website under the title "Muslimophobia - A German Balance Sheet 2023". In this context, a controversial passage from Broder was published - which he defended himself against.

“Unrestricted freedom of expression” vs. “demonization” of Muslims

Among other things, it was alleged there that in an article for SPIEGEL in 2010 he had campaigned for "unrestricted application of freedom of expression", "while openly mocking calls for de-escalation and consideration and generally describing Muslims as ignorant, honor-obsessed, bloodthirsty hordes demonized." Broder sees himself as being attacked in an unobjective manner by the text passages from the BMI.

In the article “In the Mousehole of Fear,” Broder discussed the reactions of Western countries to cartoons of Mohammed.

In this context, he wrote about the assassination attempt on the Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard - that was not the first attempt to "execute a deadly fatwa," said Broder. On the publication of Salman Rushdie's novel "The Satanic Verses" in 1988, he wrote: "Millions of Muslims around the world who had never read a line of the book and never heard the name wanted to see the death sentence carried out against the author, ever The quicker the better, to use his blood to cleanse the Prophet's tarnished honor."

Court: No “official” position

From the court's point of view, the report by the group of experts represents an infringement on Broder's personal rights. The assessment is permitted. However, the ministry must make it clear that this is not an “official” position. The BMI has a duty to be objective. The OVG decision states that this was not done justice. Rather, the document has the BMI logo on it and Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser says in the foreword that it is important to seriously consider the experts' recommendations.

With its decision, the OVG overturned a decision by the Berlin Administrative Court in an expedited procedure. (OVG 9 S 20/23). Broder's lawyer Steinhöfel is now waiting for a statement from the BMI acknowledging the decision. “If that doesn’t happen, we’ll sue,” said the lawyer.

“We are currently evaluating the decision of the Higher Administrative Court,” the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” quoted a ministry spokeswoman as saying. The expert group's report was taken from the ministry's website.