German minister drops threat to sue over column on police

BERLIN (AP) — Germany’s top security official on Thursday backed off a much-criticized threat to file a criminal complaint against a left-wing columnist who wrote disparagingly about the police.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had told mass-circulation daily Bild on Monday that he would lodge the complaint over a June 15 column in the left-leaning Tageszeitung that compared police officers to garbage. Opposition lawmakers warned that government intervention over a newspaper column could be seen as interference in press freedom.

Within hours, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said the German leader was talking to Seehofer about the matter.

In a statement Thursday, Seehofer renewed complaints about rising violence against police and rescue officers, and said that the language used in the column “sweepingly denies a whole group of people their human dignity.”

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He said that, “after careful consideration,” he had decided to invite Tageszeitung’s editors to discuss the article and its effects, and would ask the German Press Council — the media industry’s own standards watchdog — to make a clear statement on the article, which he argued violates Germany’s press code of conduct.

He didn’t repeat the threat to file a criminal complaint, noting that others already have done so.

The newspaper’s deputy editor, Katrin Gottschalk, welcomed Seehofer’s about-turn and wrote on Twitter that its legal team continues to stand by the columnist.

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