The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has accused the German Football Federation of launching an unfair campaign of distortion and lies against a journalist who has criticised its President, Theo Zwanziger, one of the country's leading sports officials.
Jens Weinreich, a freelance journalist working for leading German and Swiss media, is a specialist in the area of international politics of sports. He has found himself up against the powerful German Football Federation (DFB) which has taken him to court twice, and lost, over claims that referring to Mr Zwanziger as an "incredible demagogue" in a web-log commentary was libel and slander.
On 14 November the DFB issued a press release, containing no less than 18 errors of fact and distortions according to the journalist, and which he says aims to destroy his journalistic reputation and to stifle his criticism of the administration of football and Olympic sport in Germany.
"This is a shocking example of intimidation of a journalist who is raising matters of public concern," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "It is clear that the administrators of German football are not taking the decisions of the courts seriously and merely want to harass and disrupt proper scrutiny of their affairs."
Although Mr Zwanziger and the DFB contend that the term "incredible demagogue" used by the journalist could be interpreted as suggesting he had links with Nazi-style methods, the courts said this was not tenable. Weinreich, a winner of the prestigious Waechterpreis for investigative reporting in Germany, is now studying the contentious press release which, he says, is clearly defamatory.
"When a journalist is subject to public attack such as this it is important to push back hard," said White. "Public figures must accept that their actions are subject to analysis and fair comment. This intemperate response is worrying, not least because it suggests they have much to hide."
For more information contact the EFJ at +32 2 235 2200
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 European countries