German minister slams press watchdog’s police column ruling

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s top security official criticized the country’s independent press watchdog Wednesday for ruling that a left-wing newspaper’s column disparaging the police was covered by freedom of speech.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said in a statement that the verdict was “intolerable” because it played down what he considered libelous comments about the police.

The German Press Council ruled Tuesday that the column in the Tageszeitung daily, headlined “All cops are unfit for work,” had addressed structural problems within the police force, such as far-right extremism, violence and racism, in a satirical way.

The columnist had suggested that police officers would be better off working on garbage dumps.

Seehofer had initially threatened to file a criminal complaint against the column’s author after it appeared in June, but then backed off after Chancellor Angela Merkel intervened in the matter.

The newspaper’s editor in chief, Barbara Junge, welcomed the Press Council’s ruling.

Germany was ranked 11th in the World Press Freedom Index compiled annually by Reporters without Borders. The group noted that “solid constitutional guarantees and an independent judiciary ensure a favorable environment for journalists” in Germany, but warned of threats and physical attacks against journalists by extremists and hostile demonstrators.

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