Media Law

WDR to disclose information under Freedom of Information Act

Germany’s Federal Administrative Court has decided that WDR is bound by the German Freedom of Information Act and must therefore publish information when it is requested.

WDR to disclose information under Freedom of Information Act ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

WDR to disclose information under Freedom of Information Act ©-Thomas-Jansa-Fotolia

Background

The decision is the culmination of a dispute between a journalist and WDR.

The journalist had requested information from WDR as to the award between 2002 to 2006 of 47 non-editorial contracts to particular companies and individuals.

When WDR refused to provide the information requested, the journalist sued under the Press Act and under the Freedom of Information Act.

Disclosure under the Press and Freedom of Information Act

The lower administrative court rejected the case.

On appeal, the Regional Administrative Court of Appeal held that the journalist did not have a right to information under § 4 sub-paragraph 1 of North Rhine-Westphalia’s (NRW) Press Act. Instead, the court reasoned that as the information request related to non-editorial content, NRW’s Freedom of Information Act should apply, and the claim should therefore be allowed.

The Federal Administrative Court later upheld the Regional Administrative Appeal Court’s decision.

Confidentiality

Under § 55 a of the WDR Act information on sources of editorial content which fall within editorial confidentiality remain protected from publication.

WDR also reports that information which could lead to the exertion of third party influence over the selection, composition and content of programmes will also be covered by the exception.

Disclosure order

An order requiring WDR to disclose the requested information was handed down on 1 Juli 2013. WDR made partial disclosure, relying on § 9 sub-paragraph 1 of NRW’s Freedom of Information Act to withhold personal data.

WDR reports that, due to the effort required to comply with the request, it has charged a fee for publishing the data.

Rafaela Wilde is a partner at the law firm WILDE BEUGER SOLMECKE.

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