Miersch/Maxeiner v. Bundesministerium fór Umwelt (Halle Administrative Court, 2015)
Side A: Maxeiner (Individual)
Side B: Federal Ministry for Environment (Government)
Core objectives: Challenge to Ministry's public characterization of journalists as "climate change skeptics"
SummaryIn August 2013, two journalists who had written various articles across different outlets questioning prevailing theories on climate change, brought suit in the Administrative Court of Halle. They requested the German Environment Agency (Umweltbundesamt) to cease and desist from publishing certain statements in a brochure, which referred to the journalists by name and identified them – amongst others – as “climate-change sceptics”. The journalists based their claim on a breach of their rights to privacy enshrined in Article 2 of the Basic Law (Germany’s constitution).
In late November 2015, the court ruled that the federal privacy protection laws did not prevent the Agency from publishing the brochure. Although the court recognized the validity of the journalists’ rights to privacy in general, it concluded that they were not affected in the present case. The court also noted that the Environment Agency was not restricted to neutrality in its publications. To the contrary, the court stated that the Agency’s task is to educate the public on environmental issues and to conduct scientific research, which necessarily presupposes that it – objectively – also deals with third party publications in an evaluative manner, to be able to inform the public about them.
The High Administrative Court of Sachsen-Anhalt rejected the journalists' appeal of the lower court's decision in March 2017, as it could not find “serious doubts” as to the validity of the decision.