Berlin to evaluate online hate law amid Arabic police greeting Twitter storm

German Justice minister Heiko Maas fell victim to anti-hate speech rules he himself championed. Maas had in a 2010 tweet called Thilo Sarrazin, a politician who wrote a controversial book on Muslim immigrants, “an idiot.” The post was deleted after Twitter received several complaints, fueling a simmering row over the new regulation. (AFP)
Updated 09 January 2018

Berlin to evaluate online hate law amid Arabic police greeting Twitter storm

BERLIN: Germany signalled Monday it was open to amending a controversial law combatting online hate speech as the justice minister fell victim to the rules he himself championed.
The move came after Twitter deleted a post by Heiko Maas dating back to 2010 before he was appointed justice minister, in which he called a fellow politician “an idiot.”
The post was deleted after Twitter received several complaints, fueling a simmering row over the new regulation which critics say stifle freedom of speech.
Government spokesman Steffen Seibert said an evaluation would be carried out within six months to examine how well the new law was working.
“It’s best to conduct the evaluation with an open mind, and then we’ll see what experience can be drawn from it, what impact and then all that would be weighed up,” he told reporters.
Germany adopted the law, one of the toughest in the world, after a surge in racist and incendiary speech online, particularly after the arrival of more than one million asylum-seekers since 2015.
The legislation, which came into force on Jan. 1, requires social media giants to remove hate speech and other illegal content, or risk fines of up to €50 million ($57 million).
Companies such as Twitter and Facebook have 24 hours to remove posts that openly violate German law after they are flagged by users.
But critics said the law pushes social media companies into taking a pro-active stance in deleting potentially offensive posts, effectively handing them the power of censorship.
Parties including the AfD, the pro-business FDP, far-left Linke as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Bavarian allies CSU are lining up to demand it be scrapped or amended.
The row returned to haunt the justice minister over the weekend when he found his tweet about Thilo Sarrazin, a politician who wrote a controversial book on Muslim immigrants, had been deleted.
Speaking to Bild on Monday, Maas said he “did not receive any information from Twitter about why the tweet was deleted,” admitting there are “things that I would no longer tweet today.”
Barely a week after coming into force, the new law has sparked intense debate as it snared high-profile individuals.
Far-right MP Beatrix von Storch became the first prominent politician to fall foul of the new rules with posts deleted from both Twitter and Facebook.
Von Storch, deputy leader of the anti-immigration AfD party’s parliamentary group, had criticized Cologne police for sending a New Year’s greeting in Arabic on Twitter.
“What the hell is going on with this country? Why is an official police site ... tweeting in Arabic?” she wrote. “Did you mean to placate the barbaric, Muslim, gang-raping hordes of men?”
Her colleague Jens Maier is facing a criminal complaint over a tweet that called Boris Becker’s son a “half-negro.”
The AfD capitalized on discontent against a mass influx of asylum seekers to Germany since 2015 to make the strongest showing for a far-right party in a national election in the post-war era.


Reuters TV crew hit by rubber bullets as police disperse Minneapolis protesters

Updated 31 May 2020

Reuters TV crew hit by rubber bullets as police disperse Minneapolis protesters

  • ‘A police officer that I’m filming turns around points his rubber-bullet rifle straight at me’

MINNEAPOLIS: Two members of a Reuters TV crew were hit by rubber bullets and injured in Minneapolis on Saturday night when police moved into an area occupied by about 500 protesters in the southwest of the city shortly after the 8 p.m. curfew.
Footage taken by cameraman Julio-Cesar Chavez showed a police officer aiming directly at him as police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse the crowd.
“A police officer that I’m filming turns around points his rubber-bullet rifle straight at me,” said Chavez.
Minutes later, Chavez and Reuters security adviser Rodney Seward were struck by rubber bullets as they took cover at a nearby gas station.
On footage captured as they ran for safety, several shots are heard ringing out and Seward yells, “I’ve been hit in the face by a rubber bullet.”
Asked about the incident, Minneapolis Police Department spokesman John Elder requested a copy of the video and made no immediate comment.
Seward is seen in later footage being treated by a medic near the scene for a deep gash under his left eye. Both men sustained injuries to their arms, and Chavez was hit in the back of the neck.
The Reuters journalists were clearly identified as members of the news media. Chavez was holding a camera and wearing his press pass around his neck. Seward was wearing a bullet proof vest with a press label attached.
The incident was the latest attack on a journalist covering the protests that have erupted around the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
A black CNN journalist was arrested on camera while covering the protests in Minneapolis on Friday.
A Louisville, Kentucky, television reporter yelled, “I’m getting shot” as she was seen live on camera on Friday being hit by what appeared to be a pepper ball. The Louisville Metro Police Department apologized for that incident.
The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, according to the New York Times, had received about 10 reports involving journalists during the recent protesting, ranging from assaults to menacing.