Left-wing politician obtains injunction in light of Web pages on his Stasi past
Published 2008-11-16 11:14 (KST) Reported by Hartmut Kaiser
[See further the English entry for Lutz Heilmann through Wikipedia]
Wikipedia is very popular in Germany. With some 825,000 articles, it is the second biggest edition after the English version. However, this weekend started with a shock for all German Wikipedia lovers.
Those who typed in www.wikipedia.de were redirected to a Web site which read:
“The county court of Luebeck (North Germany) has issued an order in the name of Lutz Heilmann, Member of Parliament (left party/post-communist) that the German Wikipedia (Wikimedia e.V.) must not allow linking its domain wikipedia.de to the Web site wikipedia.org, as long as the German language version of wikipedia.org makes certain statements.”
The county court of Luebeck has announced that wikipedia.de will be inaccessible for about four weeks.
The controversial statements include Heilmann’s past as a member of the infamous East German Secret Service — the Stasi — and allegations that he has threatened an ex-boyfriend.
The irony is that the servers of wikipedia.org , in all of its many language versions, including German, are hosted in Florida under United States law. The constitution of the US grants freedom of speech. The controversial article is still accessible to anybody who wants to see it, and has received many more clicks due to the publicity that the decision of the court of Luebeck has caused.
Clearly, these days attempts trying to hold back information from the Internet community by taking legal action seems to backfire.
Part of Heilmann’s legal studies were conducted at the Luebeck court, so some bloggers speculate that those judges wanted to do him a favour. Heilmann could have tried to solve his case the “Wikipedia way” by appealing to Wikipedia admins or by starting an edit war.
He chose another way: legal action.
This is not the first time that the post-communist “left party” has used lawyers to try to pull Wikipedia off the Internet.
Katina Schubert, vice-president of the left party filed a complaint against Wikipedia because she felt offended by the display of swastikas in Wikipedia articles dealing with the Third Reich.
It is ironic that the Web site of the left party www.sozialisten.de showed Neo-Nazi skinheads with swastikas. The left party had better cleaned up their own Web site before complaining about Wikipedia.
Extremism on all sides (communist, post-communist, skinheads and neo-nazi) has become very popular in Germany recently, due to economic problems (see my 2006 OhmyNews article Fading Fortunes Gives Rise to German Extremism).
The future will show which forces will prevail in Germany, the power of the Internet to give free and abundant access to information or the attempts of extremist politicians to attack the freedom of speech.
Personally, I am quite optimistic. As the saying goes, “Three things cannot hide for long: The sun, the moon and the truth.”