Not all journalists wishing to report on the event were welcome at the Hamburg G20 summit.

Foto: Omer Messinger/NurPhoto

In order to experience how rigidly and incorrectly a country and its law enforcement agencies deal with press freedom and violate this valuable asset, no trips to “rogue states” and dictatorships are necessary. A professional appointment in Germany can be enough to gain such bitter impressions. This was the experience of 32 journalists who wanted to report from Hamburg on the meeting of the 20 most important industrial countries in July 2017 – from the G20 summit. Those media people were denied access to the press center and also had to hand in their accreditation badges again. The Hamburg police have now tried to apologize for one of the victims, a good three years after the incident.

In a letter to the journalist Ertugrul “Adil” Yigit, the Hamburg police chief Ralf Martin Meyer regrets the “unintentional wrongdoing by the police officers deployed”. In the communication with the Federal Criminal Police Office and the Federal Press Office there were misunderstandings and errors, the NDR quotes from the letter that is available to the broadcaster. According to the radio people, the lines of the president will end a legal dispute between Yigit and the police. The journalist had asked that she admit her wrongdoing.

Adil Yigit was not the only one to oppose the way the police dealt with press representatives during the G20 meeting, which was also called the “riot summit” due to protests by protesters. For example, two journalists against the withdrawal of press accreditation went to the administrative court in Berlin and were right. In November 2019, the verdict was: “The prerequisite for a lawful revocation of the accreditations (did not exist).”

A smack against the Federal Press Office, whose lawyers had always emphasized: After the riots, there was a reassessment by the security authorities that only left one option open for trade: the withdrawal of the accreditations. A measure that hit 32 media people. Rapporteurs who were blacklisted as potential threats.

It is still questionable on the basis of what findings German security authorities are resorting to classifying journalists in this way. In the Hamburg 2017 case, it was said that reports of demonstrations from elsewhere were sufficient to be put in the “possibly dangerous” drawer. Research on right-wing extremism, close contacts with environmental activists or a “left tendency” are said to have contributed to a corresponding categorization.

There are safety concerns about those who were classified in this way and who were therefore excluded from the G20 summit in Hamburg. The responsible authorities wanted to justify their interference with freedom of the press. A violation that, for example, prevented the nd editor Simon Poelchau from reporting on the G20 summit.

Poelchau asked the authorities to give reasons for withdrawing accreditation. The answer came from the Federal Criminal Police Office in August 2017: Although there was no entry for Simon Poelchau in the INPOL police information system, there was a warning from the Berlin Office for the Protection of the Constitution that he was provisionally arrested in 2015 during a protest. However, the editor knew nothing of an arrest and wrote this to the floppy hats. They replied two years (!) Later, wrote only of a “participation” in the demo, but did not mention arrest. Other entries by the secret service agents seemed so questionable to Poelchau that he decided to sue the constitutional protectionists.

All of this may make us wonder how far those findings and entries by the authorities that led to the accession of accreditations in Hamburg are questionable. An act that causes journalists to have stomach pressures even after three years. A letter from Police President Meyer cannot cure this. Commentary on page 8