June 2, 2008 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Deutsche Telekom admits having monitored journalists' phone calls

Reporters Without Borders is shocked by German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom's admission on 24 May that phone calls between members of its staff and journalists working for Financial Times Deutschland, Capital and other news media were monitored at its behest.

“It is astonishing that a company such as Deutsche Telekom could monitor journalists' phone calls in complete violation of the law,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is vital that the federal government, which is Deutsche Telekom's biggest shareholder, should pursue its investigation and identify all those responsible. We will follow this case very carefully and we will be on the lookout for similar practices by other German companies.”

Deutsche Telekom was facing serious economic problems in its fixed phone line department in 2005 and 2006 and then CEO Kai-Uwe Ricke acknowledged in an interview for Der Spiegel that the company was worried by the fact that many confidential documents of great strategic importance were being leaked to the press.

Deutsche Telekom's management reportedly used an outside company specialising in information technology security to gather data about phone calls between some of the members of its supervisory board and the press with the aim of identifying the source of the leaks.

In a press release on 24 May, Deutsche Telekom acknowledged “the illegal use of communications data” but denied tapping any calls. Only “the time, duration and identity of the callers” were recorded, and not the content of the calls, the company said.

Hans-Jürgen Knok, Deutsche Telekom's head of security from 1998 to 2004, has reportedly said communications monitoring of the same kind was carried by other companies quoted on the Frankfurt stock exchange.