Treason probe boosts fortunes of German digital rights site

AP News
Posted: Aug 05, 2015 11:25 AM
Treason probe boosts fortunes of German digital rights site

BERLIN (AP) — A German website specializing in coverage of online privacy and digital culture says it has seen a flurry of donations after becoming the subject of a rare treason probe by German authorities.

The founder of said Wednesday that the site has received more than 50,000 euros ($54,415) from supporters since announcing last week that federal prosecutors were investigating two of its journalists for reporting on secret plans to expand online surveillance in Germany.

Markus Beckedahl said the probe thrust the 11-year-old website into the limelight, especially after Germany's justice minister — embarrassed by the investigation — announced Tuesday he was firing the country's top federal prosecutor.

"For the past week we've been at the center of a hurricane," Beckedahl told The Associated Press. "On the other hand we've received more donations thanks to a lot of solidarity and support, so that we may be able to grow."

Beckedahl, who was named in the probe alongside fellow journalist Andre Meister, said the additional funding would allow the site to expand its five-person staff. Meanwhile, he called on authorities to formally end their probe and reveal whether any of its contributors had been subject to surveillance.

The investigation, which was sparked by a criminal complaint from Germany's domestic intelligence agency, also targets an unidentified source who supplied with secret documents from inside the agency.

Beckedahl said the probe had strengthened the site's resolve to report on sensitive subjects.

"We're not giving up," he said in an interview at the site's small offices in central Berlin. "We're even more motivated to do our work now. We encourage our readers to send us more documents that we can analyze, assess and perhaps even publish."

German officials have taken pains to stress their commitment to press freedom amid widespread criticism of the probe.