Spiegel report: German foreign intelligence agency BND spied on foreign journalists

Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the apparent targeted surveillance of foreign journalists by the German foreign intelligence agency (BND). According to an online report of the magazine Der Spiegel, starting from 1999 the BND spied on at least 50 telephone and fax numbers or email addresses of journalists or newsrooms worldwide.

We have long feared that the BND monitored journalists as part of its mass filtering of communication data, at least as 'by-catch.' The targeted surveillance revealed by the Spiegel investigation is a massive violation of press freedom”, said Christian Mihr, the executive director of RSF Germany. “The reform of the BND bill was already a clear breach of the constitution. It does not alter the current practice of monitoring journalists.”

According to documents seen by Spiegel, among the targets were the British BBC in Afghanistan and London, the New York Times in Afghanistan, as well as mobile and satellite telephones of the news agency Reuters in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The German Bundestag has passed the new BND law in October last year. Exemptions protecting journalists, such as those in paragraph 3 of Germany’s so-called G10 law – a law specifying the restrictions that can be placed on the constitutional right to the confidentiality of email and telecommunications – are completely absent from the law. The bill allows, for example, the BND to place the New York Times under surveillance if the newspaper received confidential information that the German authorities regarded as sensitive.

Germany is ranked 16th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 24.02.2017