Germany, in a First, Shuts Down Left-Wing Extremist Website
From The New York Times
BERLIN — An influential website linked to violence at the Group of 20 summit meeting in Hamburg last month has been ordered to shut down, in the first such move against left-wing extremists in the country, officials in Germany said Friday.
Thomas de Maizière, the interior minister, said that the unrest in Hamburg, during which more than 20,000 police officers were deployed and more than 400 people arrested or detained, had been stirred up on the website and showed the “serious consequences” of left-wing extremism.
“The prelude to the G-20 summit in Hamburg was not the only time that violent actions and attacks on infrastructural facilities were mobilized on linksunten.indymedia,” he said, referring to the website.
The Interior Ministry said the website was the “most influential online platform for vicious left-wing extremists in Germany,” and noted that it had been used for years to spread criminal content and to incite violence.
The right to demonstrate peacefully is enshrined in the Basic Law, Germany’s 1949 Constitution, but the authorities have taken action against hate speech and incitements to violence. In June, officers raided the homes of 36 people accused of hateful postings on social media. And in January 2016, the Interior Ministry ordered a ban on a right-wing website, “Altermedia Deutschland.”
Linksunten.indymedia, founded in 2008, billed itself as “a weapon in the social struggle” and said it was a “decentrally organized global network of social movements.” The ministry was able to move against the website because it viewed those running it as an “association,” and under German law, those can be blocked for extremist activity. The platform was not accessible on Friday, and the ministry said that its goal was to shut the site permanently.
Raids in the southwestern state of Baden-Württemberg were conducted in the early hours of Friday against several leading members and supporters of the website, the ministry said in a statement.
In Hamburg last month, about 500 police officers and an unknown number of protesters were wounded in clashes. The ministry said that the website had referred to police officers as “pigs” and “murderers,” and had featured instructions for creating Molotov cocktails.
A spokeswoman for the political party The Left, Ulla Jelpke, told the newspaper Die Welt that the ban was an “illegitimate act of censorship” and an “arbitrary limitation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.”