Defamation Laws In Germany

The law of Libel and Slander is governed by Sections 185 upto 200 of the German Criminal Code
Sanctions involve imprisonment ranging from three (3) months to five (5) years, plus a fine.

To obtain an interim injunction, the claimant has to persuade the court that on the balance of probabilities, the statement is false, defamatory or relates to his private life. The defendant usually does not have the chance to challenge the claimant’s evidence until after the injunction has been granted. Publication in Germany generally occurs if the alleged false and/or defamatory material is read, heard, accessed or seen in Germany. A single instance of publication in Germany may be sufficient to bring a case.

In general, the claimant must start the normal action within three (3) years from the end of the year of the publication or broadcast complained of and the year in which the claimant became aware of the circumstances giving rise to the claim and identity of the defendant. This presupposes that claims in relation to online articles can continue forever since the limitation period can start each time the article is accessed.

As reported by Peter Briody (2010), cases of “defamation” Germany have reached a figure of 200,827 investigated cases as of 2009. As concluded by Briody, although Germany has a free press where the media has more commercial independence, the local press in Germany is still subject to subtle but iron censorship.