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A friend of me has founded a student newspaper in Germany that has an acronym of the schools name in its title. Like HBS instead of Harvard Business School. Internationally there are dozens of schools that have the same name.

The newspaper is not sponsored by the school.

Now the school wants to control what articles are being published by adding a staff member that can reject articles without a legitimate reason as defined in the German Pressekodex, a set of guidelines for good journalism.

Can the school force the newspaper to align with their proposals?

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    Probably not. But they should be able to freely decide whether to keep a student or not. Which essentially means that if you want to be their student you have to comply.
    – Greendrake
    Jun 4, 2021 at 7:12
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    In the Schulgesetzen of the states there are normally norms on Schülerzeitungen. The legal situation may be complicated, but the first step is to look in thse laws.
    – K-HB
    Jun 4, 2021 at 8:16
  • Good question. I wouldn't have a clue what the answer is under German law.
    – ohwilleke
    Jun 21, 2021 at 20:19

2 Answers 2

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Students too have freedom of information and expression. The school has no right to interfere with the student's activities outside of school.

But is this activity outside of school?

  • If the newspaper is created as part of a student council or a school-supported project group, supervision by a teacher might be appropriate.
  • If the newspaper wants to distribute copies on school grounds, it will need the school's consent.
  • If the name of the newspaper suggests an affiliation with the school, this could affect the reputation of the school which could lead to legal problems down the line (e.g. claims of defamation).
  • Private schools are likely allowed to impose more restrictive rules.

While there are legitimate reasons why the school would have to be (or wants to be) involved, it is ultimately not possible for a headmaster to restrict the student's freedoms. There is no legal basis for installing a censor. But a newspaper by students is not necessarily a “student newspaper”. Of course, any newspaper will have to comply with applicable press laws.

Ultimately, the exact rules depend on press law and education law in that particular state. Bavaria provides a good online summary of the rules in that state, and Wikipedia summarizes the situation across a few states. Note that some press laws might require the senior editor to have a certain age if there isn't a special privilege for student newspapers.

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Legally, there is no such thing as a student newspaper. That is, a student newspaper is governed by the same laws as any other publication. This means that legally, each (student) newspaper needs a ViSdP (Verantwortlicher im Sinne des Presserechts - Responsible Person for the purpose of press law). The ViSdP can be anyone and has control over the content of the newspaper.

If the principal of the school acts as the ViSdP of the student newspaper, the principal is also able to censor the content. If, however, the ViSdP is someone else, the principal has no control.

Anybody from the age of 7 can publish a (student) newspaper. Only requirement is that under the age of 18, parental permission to run a business is needed.

Note that “running a business” includes hiring a lawyer and filing lawsuits, so an underage publisher who has permission to publish a newspaper from their parents can sue their school without the need to have the lawsuit approved by their parents.

In practise, however, censorship of student newspapers is very common because many students seem to be unfamiliar with their rights. You can google „Zensur von Schülerzeitungen“ for more information.

https://www.augsburger-allgemeine.de/bayern/Jede-dritte-Schuelerzeitung-zensiert-Viele-Schulleitungen-haben-um-den-Ruf-der-Schule-Angst-id19883071.html

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