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Culture & The Media

Guaranteed freedom of the press

The freedom of the press and freedom of expression are among the nation’s most important basic principles.
Reporter und Journalisten
© wellphoto -

A free press is one of the most important preconditions for a democracy. In Germany, that is protected by the Basic Law The Basic Law The Basic Law determines that Germany is a constitutional state: All state authorities are subject to judicial control. Section 1 of the Basic Law is of particular relevance. It stipulates that respect for human dignity is the most important aspect of the constitution: “Human dignity shall be… Read more › . Article 5 describes freedom of opinion and the press as: “Every person shall have the right freely to express and disseminate his opinions in speech, writing and pictures and to inform himself without hindrance from generally accessible sources. (. . .) There shall be no censorship.”

The lifeblood of press freedom is a diverse media landscape. People in Germany can find information in sources of all kinds and form their own opinions. The press is not controlled by governments or parties. Instead, media companies are funded through private enterprise. Germany has the world’s fifth-largest newspaper market, after China, India, Japan and the US, and the largest market in Europe. The media in Germany currently includes around 320 mostly regional daily newspapers, 16 weekly newspapers and 1,300 magazines. According to the ranking compiled by Reporters Without Borders, an NGO, Germany placed 16th out of 180 countries in 2021. 

Combating fake news and disinformation

Digitalisation has brought about a marked shift in the media that Germans can access. For ex­ample, in 2021 around 260 titles were available as daily e-newspapers, with a total readership of 2.2 million. Media consumption has also changed significantly. In the first quarter of 2022, 78 million people (93%) went online regularly, while 73 million are active on social 
media. As in many other countries, the digital revolution has brought with it a new understanding of the public sphere, as social media and blogs allow everyone to contribute their opinions to discussions. 

Nevertheless, the media still have a key role, such as when it comes to combating fake news and disinformation. Journalists are responsible for informing the public on the basis of careful research and faithful reporting. Germany’s public service broadcasters have a legal mandate to supply as many people as possible with information, education, advice and entertainment. They follow the British model as corporate bodies funded by licence fees or public entities, and form the second pillar of a dual system built on both public and private services. This principle has essentially remained unchanged since the foundation of the Federal Republic in 1949.