VIENNA, 4 October 2017 –The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir today called on German authorities to ensure that the freedom of expression is safeguarded in the implementation of, the Network Enforcement Act (NEA), a federal law on better law enforcement in social networks which entered into force on 1 October.“The objective of the law to protect human rights, particularly those of vulnerable groups or those at risk is important and legitimate,” said Désir. “However, the scope of the law remains overly broad and its effect could be excessively restrictive on freedom of expression,” he warned.
The Representative commented that according to the law’s provisions, decisions to remove content considered unlawful or illegitimate from social networks rests with the operators of those networks, who may remove more than is necessary or proportionate, and the list of offences for which content may be deleted is very broad.
In April 2017 the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media commissioned an expert legal analysis of the NEA from Bernd Holznagel, Director of the Institute of Information, Telecommunications and Media Law at Münster University (see: www.osce.org/fom/333541). He was invited to present his findings during a public deliberation at the German federal parliament and in the subsequent parliamentary debates, a number of improvements were made to the draft.
“I commend the innovative compliance system introduced in the law and I hope that this model will encourage providers to speed up the processing of users’ complaints,” Désir said.
“I appeal to the German authorities to take steps to ensure the careful implementation of the law, evaluate its effects and be ready to amend it in parliament, if necessary, as in its current form, the law may have a chilling effect on freedom of expression,” he stated.The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. He provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments.