Examples of Political Censorship and the Criminalisation of Texts in Münster since 1980

When dealing with the vast topic of ‘censorship and criminalisation’, it is important to restrict one’s focus. This text will explore the history of the criminalisation of alternative print media in Münster.

Many alternative media projects nationwide have fallen victim to surveillance and repression. Printing texts from ‘terrorist organisations’ (e.g. Rota Zora, The Revolutionary Cells, and/or the Red Army Faction), publishing texts that discuss boycotts and similar direct actions, or calling for political prisoners to be placed together are often cited as grounds for implementing the procedures outlined in § 111 (Public Incitation of Criminal Acts), 129 (Formation of Criminal Organisations), 129a (Formation of Terrorist Organisations), and 130a (Instructions for Criminal Acts) of the Criminal Code. From 1980 to 1996, proceedings were initiated against more than 6,000 persons based on § 129a of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Germany. Almost 80% of the accusations entailed ‘supporting’, or ‘creating publicity’ for, terrorist organisations.

An Incomplete Chronology (since 1980)

September 1980: Search of the Münster Environmental Centre for the banned comic book Asterix and the Nuclear Power Station for violation of copyright and trademark law.

15 May 1981: Search of the ROSTA Bookstore in Münster for brochures entitled Wenn wir zusammen kämpfen [When We Fight Together] (on the hunger strike of political prisoners in the Federal Republic of Germany and the conflict between the IRA and INLA in Ireland).

27 October 1983: Search of the Münster Environmental Centre based on information in letters of confession printed secretly by the Revolutionary Cells in the newspaper Venceremos – Münster-Info Zeitung für eine zündende Idee [We Will Avenge Ourselves – Münster Information Sheet on a Stirring Idea] No. 2 (§ 129a of the Criminal Code).

July 1986 to February 1987: Nationwide search of more than 100 bookstores, information centres, and private apartments for the unidentified publishers and distributors of radikal No. 132. The Münster Environmental Centre and the ROSTA Bookstore in Münster are among those searched.

1987: Seizure of the brochures entitled Restrisiko Mensch [Person of Residual Risk] produced by the Münster Census Boycott Initiative. The brochures call for citizens to cut their reference numbers out of census surveys, which allegedly represents a public call to criminal action (§ 111 of the Criminal Code).

1987 and 1988: On the occasion of the Pope’s visit to Münster in 1987, the Anarchistisch Libertäre Initiative organises the ‘First Münster Anticlerical Week’ and, in 1988, the ‘Second Münster Anticlerical Week’. Preliminary inquiries are made because of alleged ‘Slander against Denominations, Religious Communities and Political Organisations’ (§ 166) into many contributors and the Stadtblatt itself. Justifications for criminalising the Stadtblatt are two Pope cartoons from the satirical paper Titanic: ‘I’m coming’ and ‘I’m coming again’.

7 January 1992: The Münster Environmental Centre and its print shop are searched because of leads on ‘Authors, Publishers and Producers of the Brochure unfassba No. 7/8’. Edition Numbers 9, 10, 11, and 18 are subsequently criminalised according to § 111, 129a and 130 of the Criminal Code.

May 1992: On the occasion of the G7 summit of economic and business leaders from the seven most powerful industrial nations and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in Münster, a ‘special edition’ of the Westphalia News (WN) is published. In this fake edition, a ‘Sensational Turn at the Münster Economic Summit’ is announced: ‘The seven leading industrial nations decided today in Münster to cancel the debts of impoverished nations. Moreover, the largest financial transfer in world history has been planned. With a billion dollar programme and a “world solidarity fund”, the ministers of economic affairs have planned to put the industries of poor nations on their own two feet.’ A criminal complaint is brought against the publishers of the fake edition.

Spring of 1994: Semesterspiegel No. 277, the student newspaper of the University of Münster, and the newspaper of the University of Münster General Student Committee, Links vom Schloss [To the Left of the Palace] are banned by the High Administrative Court because of ‘illegal general political comments’.

An edition of the university publication Sputnik – ‘Central Publication of the Sociology Department’ – published at the University of Münster, is banned for the same reasons in October 1994 and March 1995.

13 June 1995: Search of an apartment in Münster. An alleged editor of the publication radikal No. 152 is arrested and imprisoned for six months for ‘membership in and/or support of a criminal/terrorist organisation’.

1999/2000: The coordinating editors of the publication Graswurzelrevolution (GWR) [Grass Roots Revolution] No. 239 (April 1999) are the subjects of a criminal investigation according to § 111 of the Criminal Code, along with ninety persons who signed an appeal to boycott and desert the war in Yugoslavia. The Monatszeitung für eine gewaltfreie, herrschaftslose Gesellschaft [Monthly Newspaper for a Non-Violent, Autonomous Society] had already been investigated multiple times for the incitation of direct actions – e.g. for the article printed in GWR No. 110 (Dec. 1986) entitled ‘When the Utility Pole Falls… - Reflections upon Sabotage as a Direct, Non-Violent Action’.

8 January 2003: Trial of a pacifist from Münster at the Münster District Court. Accusation: ‘approval of murder’. In June 2002, Telepolis, the ‘Magazine for Web Culture’, published a satirical article about a war massacre in Mazar i Sharif, Afghanistan. The computer crime unit, district attorney and district court are engaged in the case for months. Investigations are carried out in five states. The trial ends with a verdict of ‘not guilty’.

Bernd Drücke