Attack on freedom of the press: real estate company sues Leipzig university newspaper

Sheet criticism, glosses, roof line. These are all journalism terms. Over the past few years, the opinion has spread that anyone can enter the media world. Young people with the career goal of being journalists actually find each other like dime a dozen. But what happens if nobody trains these people?

There are actually journalism schools in Germany for this type of training. But since these are overrun or expensive, many of them take detours into journalism: they do internships, use summer schools at their universities or initially work on a voluntary basis for smaller magazines.

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In the student stronghold of Leipzig, there is also an independent university newspaper for this purpose: the “luhze”. Luhze eV is an association founded by journalism students, which has been publishing its own newspaper for over 20 years. All costs are borne by membership fees and donations.

The “luhze” describes itself as a training medium. The association organizes seminar weekends with former members who are now working as journalists, invites experts to editorial meetings and organizes monthly newspaper reviews.

Personal moral rights proceedings

Since last week, however, the association has had to worry about the continued existence of the newspaper. The reason for this is a lawsuit brought by the real estate company United Capital, which accuses the “luhze” of violating corporate moral rights.

Such a right protects the company from statements that lead to a negative reputation. In the case mentioned, it is about statements on the practices of United Capital on the Leipzig housing market.

In an article in the December issue of the Leipziger Hochschulzeitung, these tenants are quoted from Harnackstraße in Leipzig. United Capital had already bought up a large part of the apartments here in order to rent out rooms in shared apartments to students for a square meter price of 18 euros.

The affected tenants then founded an initiative, which “luhze” reported on the situation. United Capital now accuses the university newspaper of not having distanced itself from the tenants and of damaging the company’s reputation with a total of five passages.

Press freedom endangered

“luhze” did not comply with the request to remove the quotes in question from the article and to stop their distribution. The district court will meet in the case next Friday.

In the event of a judgment for United Capital, the continued existence of the Leipzig university newspaper could be endangered. Depending on how many passages the court considers admissible, the newspaper’s share of legal fees and the like decreases.

Because it is financed on a donation basis, the medium has few reserves. “Regardless of how much we pay in the end, it is a large sum for us,” explains Luise Mosig, chairwoman of the “luhze” association. “Even if just one passage is declared inadmissible, the existence of our project is endangered”.

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The entire situation is also psychologically very stressful for the entire editorial team. “We shimmy from issue to issue. Every extra euro is a burden for us”. The club received the warning between Christmas and New Year, from the beginning there was an unequal balance of power between the two sides from the financial side.

However, the members of the association see the consequences for general reporting in the German press landscape as even more serious. As soon as there was always a risk of lawsuits for smaller media, the number of searches on large companies would decrease drastically. “Especially for small projects, it is very difficult to publish allegations by third parties,” explains Luise Mosig.