In the legal dispute about the reporting of the “Zeit” about the Berlin gallery owner Johann König, who is accused of alleged sexual assaults, both sides consider the decision of the Hamburg Higher Regional Court as a success for themselves. The “Zeit” reports that its account of September 1st of this year remains largely in place, the lawyer Simon Bergmann, who represents the gallery owner König, points out that another injunction has been issued against the “Zeit” and the Hamburg district court previously have already cashed in on large parts of the report.
Lawyer: “Zeit” report “essentially” prohibited
The court decided in favor of the newspaper, writes the “Zeit”. In a “pioneering decision” the judges found “reporting on the suspicion of abuse of power and sexual harassment to be fundamentally legal”. “There is a legitimate public interest in being informed that an important and internationally active member of the cultural sector is accused of repeatedly sexually harassing women,” the decision reads (Az. 7 W 101 /22). According to König’s lawyer, the higher regional court of “Zeit” has “essentially” prohibited “raising the suspicion that Johann König had molested a business partner who was professionally associated with him with suggestive remarks”. The district court of Hamburg had previously banned significant parts of the reporting of “Zeit” by means of an injunction (Az. 324 O 397/22).
The controversial article is still available online. It is about alleged sexual assaults by kings, reported by anonymous victims. One of the women used her first and last name as an abbreviation. King’s attorney noted that “Zeit” was forbidden to “raise suspicion” that King “sexually harassed, harassed and harassed at least five women with salacious comments and exercised his power over them in October 2019.” Prohibited is “also the raising of the suspicion that Mr. König inappropriately touched several women in October 2017 at various parties on the occasion of the French art fair FIAC in Paris”. Die Zeit countered that the allegations “may continue to be reported as suspicions in their predominant substance”, expressly “about the allegation of a surprise kiss, groping of several women, licking an ear and the alleged attempt by Johann König, a woman forcibly pushed into a toilet stall”. The Higher Regional Court had collected “another half-sentence” in which “the suspicion of certain sexual statements to a woman had been reported”. This passage has since been amended.
A compliance issue?
From the September 1 article, seven passages have now been banned by the court, emphasizes König’s lawyer. The bans prove “that the editors of the published article have persistently violated their journalistic duties of care”. The exposé of a planned TV series written by one of the “Zeit” authors already makes it clear that the necessary objectivity was lacking. The series, designed by journalist Carolin Würfel, was supposed to be about a gallery owner named Alexander Fürst and a culture journalist who was researching his alleged sexual assaults, but her superiors prevented publication. She joins forces with a group of activists who take Fürst into their power and torture him in order to extract a confession from him.
At this point we are clearly in fiction. The characters, however, says lawyer Bergmann, “have obviously real role models: ‘Alexander Fürst’ is Johann König, ‘Maxi Rosenthal’ is Carolin Würfel and ‘Carol Breitz’ is Candice Breitz, an artist who, together with other activists, goes by the name , Soup du Jour’ acts against Johann König and tries to persuade female artists to end their collaboration with the gallery owner”. This connection and the fact that Carolin Würfel was married to the gallery owner Alfons Klosterfelde, a competitor of König, indicated that “Zeit” had a compliance problem.
The dispute over the “Zeit” article in the preliminary injunction proceedings has thus ended. A lawsuit for damages is still possible.
Leave a Reply