Fri, Dec. 12, 2008

Nazis and Free Speech

AK - Washington.   A preliminary injunction barring the publication of a satirical piece in the satire paper Rüsselsheimer Echo mocked the city of Rüsselsheim for two recent Nazi demonstrations--held there after a court ordered it to tolerate them--and its alleged openess to such events, was lifted on December 8, 2008.

The District Court Darmstadt had found the article defamatory and not entitled to constituational free speech protection, granting Rüsselsheim's move for injunctive relief. The Court of Appeals in Frankfurt disagreed in the matter 22 U 23/08. It held the article to be clearly satirical and, therefore, an expression of opinion rather than a factual statement of a misleading nature.

The case goes to the heart of German constitutional law. In deciding whether statements are constitutionally protected, the most important distinction is whether they constitute factual allegations or simple personal judgments without a claim of truthfulness. While the latter are generally protected as free speech, factual allegations have to be accurate to enjoy constitutional protection.

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