German minister backed off a much-criticized threat to sue over column on police

German Interior Minister Horst Seehofer briefs the media after a meeting with his Austrian counterpart Karl Nehammer at the Interior Ministry in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday

Germany’s top security official on Thursday backed off a much-criticized threat to file a criminal complaint against a left-wing columnist who wrote disparagingly about the police.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had told mass-circulation daily Bild on Monday that he would lodge the complaint over a June 15 column in the left-leaning Tageszeitung that compared police officers to garbage. Opposition lawmakers warned that government intervention over a newspaper column could be seen as interference in press freedom.

Within hours, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman said the German leader was talking to Seehofer about the matter.

In a statement Thursday, Seehofer renewed complaints about rising violence against police and rescue officers, and said that the language used in the column “sweepingly denies a whole group of people their human dignity.”

He said that, “after careful consideration,” he had decided to invite Tageszeitung’s editors to discuss the article and its effects, and would ask the German Press Council — the media industry’s own standards watchdog — to make a clear statement on the article, which he argued violates Germany’s press code of conduct.

He didn’t repeat the threat to file a criminal complaint, noting that others already have done so.

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