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Censorship Government The Internet Your Rights Online

German President Refuses To Sign Censorship Law 272

Posted by kdawson
from the german-for-hot-potato dept.
thetinytoon writes "German federal president Horst Köhler has refused to sign a law to block child pornography that passed Parliament earlier this year, stating that he 'needs more information.' In Germany, the federal president has the right to reject a law only if its passage violated the order mandated by the constitution, or if it is obviously unconstitutional — he can't veto a law simply because he disagrees with it. The law was passed under a coalition government, but a different coalition took power before the law reached the president's desk. Political observers guess that the political parties would like to get rid of the law without losing face, but since it has already passed the Parliament, they can't simply abandon it."
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German President Refuses To Sign Censorship Law

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  • by dunkelfalke (91624) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:54PM (#30263336)

    ... or at least according to the former family affairs minister - she said that everyone who is against this law is either a paedophile criminal or their lobby.

  • Only two options (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gnick (1211984) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @02:56PM (#30263358) Homepage

    Well, obviously this guy supports child pornography.

    Either that OR he wants to make sure that the censorship law is congruent with the German constitution.

    Take a wild guess which of those two options is going to dominate headlines...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:07PM (#30263446)

    What, you mean child porn isn't already illegal in Germany?

    This law has nothing at all to do with child porn aside from the name.

  • Re:What the? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:12PM (#30263482)

    I never got this "first Amendment" as a sign of importance argument.

    If it was that important, why was it only later added as an amendment?

  • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:15PM (#30263494)
    Germany has restrictive laws regarding Nazi symbols and ultra-violence. The USA has restrictive laws against showing nipples.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:18PM (#30263504)

    This is not America, neither will domiante our headlines.

  • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alinabi (464689) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:19PM (#30263512)

    Why is it that the US seems to have such a high value on free speech

    What makes you say that? Is it the "free speech zones" at the Republicrat national conventions or Lenny Bruce's multiple arrests for saying "four letter words" on stage?

  • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dmartin (235398) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:22PM (#30263536)

    I don't know about Germany, but in New Zealand we have a very similar way of voting in our members of Parliament so I will take a stab at why you would not want your president to be able to veto a law thing.

    Unlike the US, we do not directly elect our head of state (I presume this is also true for Germany as well). Instead we vote for the party that we want to be in power, based on their policies and the party appoints a PM. This is actually quite common in many places, and it means that the Prime Minister can change inside a term. e.g. The United Kingdom had a PM change from Blair to Brown without an election. In the US if the president was to resign, the VP would become the president, it cannot be reassigned based on party politics. In practice the choice for PM is announced before the election, so many people do vote based on who they want their prime minister to be.

    [The US is even stranger here, as you get the right to vote for your sentators, representatives and your electoral college member, but that is a whole different digression.]

    The prime minister does have a fair amount of power, and does a bunch of figure head stuff (negotiate treaties, etc). But as it is not an elected position, the PM has fairly limited legislative power. The idea of one person vetoing a law that the other democratically elected MPs voted for would not be accepted, the PM already has a fair amount of unofficial power in the form of increased media time, and influence over the majority collation at the time. The fact that Germany has a system where the PM can overrule a law that violates the constitution is, in my opinion, a good thing.

    [The closest NZ has to this is the governer general -- as a member of the commonwealth our official head of state is the Queen of the Commonwealth. She appoints the GG who then approves laws in her place. The GG could, in principle, turn down any law for any reason but that would quickly turn public opinion against being part of the commonwealth and would probably make NZ reconsider its position within the commonwealth.]

    In contrast, ignoring the issue of the congressional college, the US populace votes directly for the position of president on the understanding that this one position will have a lot of legislative power in the form of vetos. Whether that is too much of a concentration of power for a single individual is up to you to decide, but at least it is an elected position. Ignoring our governor general (who theoretically has a lot of power, but would lose it is she ever tried to yield it) our system does not have as much power with a single person, and our elections for (psuedo-)head of state tend to be much more civil that the USA counterparts.

    Hope this helped explain the origins / reasons for the differences!

  • Censorship? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by angel'o'sphere (80593) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:28PM (#30263562) Homepage Journal

    First of all I wonder why you always use the term "censorship" if it is clearly not appropriated?
    The law is about blocking a web site, that was found distributing child porn. That is not censorship. Censorship is if you want to express something (either privately e.g. as a letter or public e.g. as a book) and you have to ask a censor first for permission. That is censorship. E.g. in the former East German Republic you could not publish a book without asking a censor first. And if he said: "no!" you not only could not publish it but you where in deep shit. And furthermore a censor usually has not to explain why he said no. That is censorship. I would say there is no "western country" where we have any kind of censorship except for field post mailed by soldiers to their homes.

    Second, in the case of this law, there was no judge involved for blocking a web site but a simple agency would do that. Furthermore the victim of such an agency had not much at hands to fight this blocking (e.g. if his domain was hijacked or DNS was abused to redirect to a child porn side, he found his domain blocked). The agency itself hat the obligation to "check from time to time" if the reason for blocking still existed, but had no defined time frames for that. The main objections are that you can't do much if you got blocked ... so the majority of the thechies are against this law, obviously.

    angel'o'sphere

  • by Sibko (1036168) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:45PM (#30263632)

    And, in the realm of censorship, Germany seems to have the most sense

    Yeah, sure. So long as you aren't wearing any Nazi symbols, or showing Nazi symbols in a game, or showing too much violence/blood in a game or...

    Of course, German residents will [in typical fashion] defend such actions on the part of the government, but the way I see it, if Nazism is bad enough that there's enormous backlash against it in Germany, you shouldn't even NEED to censor it. People can make up their own goddamn minds.

    Really, all the censorship serves to do is flush it under a rug. The people who want to openly support Nazism [or anything else] should be free to do so, and I should be equally free to deride those people for their beliefs.

    Trying to hide it under the rug doesn't work, and should not be something that a "free and democratic" society should even consider doing.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:46PM (#30263636)

    Just look in the news. Notice a trend.

    I'd wager the only reason they passed this law at all is to have a means of blocking torrent sites. Sad but probably true. There's plenty of far better ways to go after pedophiles, but this happens to be the only one that can easily be used to catch "pirates".

  • by seanadams.com (463190) * on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:48PM (#30263648) Homepage

    The state must declare the child to be the most precious treasure of the people. As long as the government is perceived as working for the benefit of the children, the people will happily endure almost any curtailment of liberty and almost any deprivation. -- Mein Kampf

  • by Reemi (142518) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:51PM (#30263656)

    Got the point.

    Sarcasm is harder to spot when being used in a language you're not raised in. Apologies to the poster for not spotting that.

     

  • Re:What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by haruharaharu (443975) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @03:52PM (#30263660) Homepage
    Because the constitution isn't a listing of rights, but powers of the federal government. One of the objections to the bill of rights was that it would be interpreted as a complkete list, and look - that's what happened.
  • by gilgongo (57446) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:28PM (#30263874) Homepage Journal

    I don't understand what the hell is going in modern society that we suddenly think there are hoards of paedophiles everywhere. The only thing that might have changed in the last 50 years is that child porn may be more accessible now that it was before, but child porn doesn't make people into paedophiles any more than Kylie Minogue makes people homosexual.

    I would (sort of) understand it if this was just a stupid legislative thing - ie making laws to ban child porn in order to get more powers to spy on ordinary people, etc. but the thing is that the general public seem to be obsessed by it over the past 10 years.

    Today is by 43rd birthday. As I played with my 9 year old son, I thought about what my life was like when I was his age. The first thing that struck me was that (were it not for the rain here in London), he'd be out playing in the streets with his mates, not in some kind of house arrest situation where he has to have at least one parent with him at all times when he leaves the house.

    It's fucking sad. And it makes me angry that politicians pander to irrelevant crap like child porn and paedophiles. Yes, paedophiles exist, and so does child porn, but the NUMBER of paedophiles hasn't increased, has it? If it has, nobody's saying why. And even if it has, then the effect of 0.00001% of the population having a predilection for children is frankly irrelevant compared to dangers such as traffic accidents, non-sexual abuse, violence and murder, which - incidentally - hasn't increased either!

    What the hell is going on???

  • Re:What the? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 29, 2009 @04:33PM (#30263918)

    The German constitution starts with the words:

    "Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar."

    Translated:

    "The dignity of man must not be violated."

    That is what is valued higher than free speech. And I think people agree for two reasons:

    1. The Nazis heavily violated the dignity of people. That is what disgusts us most about them. They dehumanized people on a massive scale. The killing is just a consequence of that. That is why we think that a life with dignity should be guaranteed for everyone. And this is for example why we have so much "socialism", we want that even the poor, the ill and the weak have their dignity. No one should be forced to beg for their live.

    2. I think most people don't really see what is gained by arranging the values with other priorities. It surely is important to be able to discuss and state ones opinion, but why is it important that I can ridicule everyone? Why is it important that I can publish racist jokes? Why is it important that I can make heavy accusations without any evidence? Why is that more important than dignity?

    Especially given the example of the USA. We know that freedom of speech is valued highest there. But we can't see that it works out good for you. You have freedom of speech in theory but in practice everyone with a different opinion is labeled unpatriotic and unamaerican. You can say what you want but your voice is easily marginalized without a second thought.

  • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:02PM (#30264080)
    Seeng that this comes from the woman who thought it'd be a good idea to open a press meeting (sorry, can't remember the proper word now in any language) by showing child porn to the reporters. Looks like a pot insisting that everyone else is a kettle.
  • by Jesus_666 (702802) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @05:27PM (#30264248)
    As for excessive violence: It's not like the States (often held as the canonical counterexample here) are without their own censorship. Anything involving sex or the primary or secondary sex characteristics is guaranteed to at least bump up your rating (even if you didn't even include it in the game, see Oblivion); then there's that one game (can't remember the name, even though I think it's The Nations) where in the German version one faction produces booze and cigarettes while in the American one they produce lollypops and candy.

    Quite seriously, I'd rather have a game wave tits in my child's face than casually depict violence. Sex is natural, fun (if consensual) and a good workout. Violence is a good workout and certainly in our nature but something we should avoid rather than cherish.

    I'm not saying here that censorhip of either is necessary, just that I think it's easier to justify violence censorship than sex censorship.
  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @06:49PM (#30264798)

    Here's a funny third possibility: He actually gives a shit about laws being "legal".

    I know, what an alien, outlandish and utterly outdated concept, but he just might consider the Basic Law of Germany more than a non-committal guideline.

  • Attack Attack!!! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BancBoy (578080) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @06:51PM (#30264812)

    You know it could have been "free speech zones" at DEMOCRAT gatherings too:

    http://camelsnose.wordpress.com/2008/08/26/what-a-denver-democratic-convention-free-speech-zone-looks-like/ [wordpress.com]

    Did you see this word in the post you are referring to - Republicrat???
    I'm thinking the GP was referring to both (very similar) parties.

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:37PM (#30265090)

    The word you should look up is hysteria. If you keep telling people that you're besieged by $bad_group, some will believe it. The longer you tell it and the more it hits home with people, the more people will believe it.

    Now, what hits more dead on than your kids wellbeing being at stake?

    The number of pedophiles has not increased, at least it's unlikely it has. The number of reported crimes has, actually, for two reasons: First, due to hysteria it's getting increasingly easy to be accused and tried (and remember, being tried as a pedo already makes you one, at least in the eyes of the public. After all, if there had been no reason...). If I find a crying kid out in the street, I will DECIDEDLY NOT go out and try to help unless I can be certain that the child is somehow injured AND others have seen that I had NOTHING to do with it. It's sad, I know, but the very last thing I need is that I go out, try to help this child and be sacked by a hysteric parent thinking I tried to molest their little darling when I was only checking out why a kid was standing alone in the street crying.

    The other reason is even sadder. Because the punishment for molesting a child has been upped and upped beyond any sensibility by now, the difference between going to jail for molesting a child and outright killing him or her afterwards is minimal. The chance to get caught after you kill the only witness is much lower. The result is easy to figure out.

    So yes, the amount of reported crimes is on the rise. Fortunately not only because of these two reasons but also because we teach our kids today that it is NEVER their fault if they're touched inappropriately, and parents are no longer willing to look the other way if someone dear to them is the culprit (as it is in almost all cases, btw, it's rarely the bad random stranger) and actually believe their kids if they finally muster the strenght to tell.

    Also, the media today take every single case and blow it up. Because it's interesting, people are sensitized already and eager to swallow any story furthering an already existing hysteria.

    But to answer the question, what's going on: personally, I think human needs a nemesis. Some villain, some evildoer, some sort of boogeyman to fear, blame or at least hate. Now, it's not really popular to hate in our PC world. You must not hate others. Not because they're black, not because they're jewish, not because they are handicapped, you must not hate anyone. But we need someone to hate. So let's hate pedophiles. Judging from how they're characterized by psychologists, it's a group of people who rarely have a lot of self esteem and prefer kids because they feel "stronger". Not really a group that's likely to fight back, is it? Perfect.

    Furthermore, a group that makes the perfect boogeyman. They're everywhere, ya know. You can't tell if someone is one. It could be your neighbor that looks really normal and all, but secretly in his basement there's kiddy-sized shackles tacked to a board I'm sure. It's a bit like the communist craze in the 50s when you think about it. Could be anyone, have to watch out...

  • Re:What the? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fbjon (692006) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @07:54PM (#30265180) Homepage Journal
    The swastika is not actually outlawed in Germany, only symbols of unconstitutional organizations. So only a particular form of the swastika is thus outlawed. Now, I'm neither German nor American, but I'll take an outlawing of a 45-degree clockwise-pointing swastika rather than TV-nipples any day!
  • by Golddess (1361003) on Sunday November 29, 2009 @08:09PM (#30265252)
    http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks02/0200601.txt [gutenberg.net.au]

    I can't find it. Even presuming a different translation, I'm not seeing anything close to GP's quote.
  • by Lars T. (470328) <Lars.Traeger@g[ ... m ['oog' in gap]> on Sunday November 29, 2009 @09:20PM (#30265560) Journal

    I googled it and it looks legit... here is a more specific attribution:

    Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler, Publ. Houghton Miflin, 1943, Page 403

    No, only the first sentence is legit. The rest is from a fictional letter from Hitler [wnd.com] by Rabbi Daniel Lapin. He quotes (in "quotes") that first sentence with a footnote with exactly the attribution you gave - the rest he makes up.

  • Re:What the? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mog007 (677810) <Mog007.gmail@com> on Sunday November 29, 2009 @09:33PM (#30265664)

    The correct response is: I want no outlawing of ANY speech. Don't compromise on your rights, otherwise your children will find themselves compromising on the shit that you wouldn't compromise on.

  • by Carewolf (581105) on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:00AM (#30268048) Homepage

    But that's okay, because it's private.

    No, it is not. It is LEGAL because it is private, but the act for censoring is wrong no matter if it happens in a legal or illegal context.

    Btw, this is the real difference between (North) European and US attitudes of censorship. In Europe is considered wrong, in the US it is considered illegal, but only if the government does it, while censorship in the US as private entity is the essence of modern political correctness.

  • by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Monday November 30, 2009 @04:17AM (#30268142) Homepage Journal

    No, there's no inflection or tone to hear in order to detect sarcasm.

    When we get an audio web, THEN we'll probably hear the sarcasm. At 110dB because some moron thinks Mic Boost +20dB is CRUISE CONTROL FOR COOL.

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