English version of the Open Letter published on January 10th 2018:
"A new law, which allegedly contributes to the fight against hate-speech, has been enforced in Germany since the beginning of 2018. Accordingly, the lack of a quick response, by administrators of major social networking sites, to entries that are considered hateful, can be subject to horrendously high fines, of up to 50 million euros; as determined by a group of officials from the German Ministry of Justice, who will decide what is, and what is not hateful, as well as whether a particular entry has been removed quickly enough. In addition, a form has been made available on the German Ministry of Justice’s website, enabling users to quickly report on content they consider inappropriate.
We hereby protest in the strongest possible terms against the introduction of such solutions, that radically limit freedom of speech and expression in a manner unheard of in any other civilized country. It is hard not to detect that this form of action – by a group of subservient government officials, empowered to pass judgement on the suitability or not of web content, as well as to impose high penalties – bears all the classic hallmarks of a repressive institution imposing censorship. It can also have the chilling effect on public debate: mindful of potential penalties, discussion participants will wilfully refrain from expressing their thoughts.
It is with the greatest concern that we observe the destruction of free public debate in Germany, with the adoption of mechanisms typical of authoritarian and non-liberal regimes. Freedom of expression is the founding principle of all modern democracies. We thus wish to express our solidarity with our German colleagues, journalists and bloggers, whom the German state has decided to deprive of freedom of expression rights.
We also note with utter amazement, that such a drastic and unprecedented measure, restricting freedom of expression, has not yet been met with a proportionate response of any European institution. It is for this reason that we urge journalists and bloggers from all EU member states, to express their firm opposition to this new German law. If such solutions are not sufficiently vigorously opposed by the journalistic world, one may rightly fear that other governments, encouraged by Germany’s example, will also endeavour to limit or indeed eliminate freedom of expression rights.
Polish Journalists Association (SDP)
Warsaw, 10 January 2018
Krzysztof Skowroński, President of the SDP