NewsAfter vigilante justice: no charges against RTL film team

After vigilante justice: no charges against RTL film team

Despite the pixelation, people from Bremen believed they had recognized an alleged pedophile on TV. An innocent man was critically injured in an attack. There is now no lawsuit against the film team.

A reporter and a freelance employee of the TV station RTL do not have to go to court because of a momentous contribution about pedosexuals. The two had been charged with negligent bodily harm after their television report sparked a lynching attack on an innocent man in Bremen. The Bremen-Blumenthal District Court has refused to admit the indictment to trial. This decision has now become final, because both the public prosecutor and the victim as a joint plaintiff have waived legal remedies.

As reported at the time, RTL had shown a secretly filmed suspect and his alleged residential building in 2018. Despite the pixelation, some viewers believed they had recognized the alleged pedophile. Several men broke into the multi-family block shown and beat a 50-year-old there ready for hospital. The critically injured man was not the one shown on TV, and according to the police, he has also proven innocent.

The filmmakers were charged in 2020 because they allegedly made the attack possible due to a lack of anonymization – especially of the apartment block. According to the decision of the local court, the team could not foresee the attack. The “brutal action of the lynch mob against a person not shown in the television report” is not attributable to the television people, as RTL quoted from the non-admission decision.

According to the court, the incident was “to a great extent regrettable”. However, this should not lead to the responsibility for this act “being shifted to the journalists”, for whom it is already questionable whether they have violated a criminally relevant duty of care at all.

According to the public prosecutor’s office, the attacked person has now also waived a complaint against the non-admission of the indictment as a joint prosecutor. His lawyer Heinrich Theilmann said on Monday at the request of our newspaper that the court’s reasoning was “relatively conclusive and understandable”.

But he will demand compensation from RTL. In civil law, the case is to be judged differently than in criminal law. The only caught offender had already paid a small sum. After the fact, he had turned himself in and was sentenced to a one-year suspended sentence for dangerous bodily harm in 2020. His accomplices are still unknown today. Lawyer Theilmann considers it an “absolute mistake” that the police have not identified any other perpetrators.

Immediately after the attack, the broadcaster had denied any guilt. He took the contribution from the homepage and declared: “RTL condemns the brutal act of lynching in Bremen in the strongest possible way.”

The contribution was formally objected to in 2018 by the “Commission for Approval and Supervision” of the German state media authorities because it violated journalistic principles. In the opinion of the media supervisory authority, an existing “reporting interest” does not release from the obligation “to protect the personal rights of persons shown, especially with this sensitive issue”. At that time, RTL waived legal remedies against the complaint.

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