Transparency the German way

Sunday, March 26, 2006 at 4:16 | Posted in Bloggers' rights, Blogosphere, Freedom of speech, Germany | 45 Comments
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The German chapter of Transparency International is in the middle of a self infected publicity disaster this weekend. A lawyer representing Transparency International – Deutschland e.V has threatened to sue the ass of a young German blogger unless she removes a blog post of hers by Sunday midnight. She received the threatening e-mail less than 48 hours before the dead line.

Moni posted in her blog a couple of weeks ago about a friend, who was fired from her half time job at Transparency International – Deutschland e.V after a test period. She used to work for 20 hours a week for 1000 euros a month (before tax was drawn off her salary). Since that is not sufficient to support her and her three year old child, she also worked as a free lance journalist.

According to Moni, the employer was happy with her friend's performance. As the test period was about to run off, the friend was asked if she could work for 30 hours a week instead of the 20. She would have had to give up most of her assignments as journalist in such case which is why she asked for a sallary that would have payed her 1400 euros a month in cash after the tax. Transparency International – Deutschland e.V thought that was too much, which is why Moni's friend offered to work with the old terms, that is 20 hours a week for 1000 euros a month.

As no agreement was reached, Transparency International – Deutschland e.V decided not to prolong the contract after the test period. According to Moni, her friend was replaced by another person to whom money was not a major issue. The lady is said to have applied for another job at Transparency International – Deutschland e.V but agreed to replace Moni's friend on terms that are apparently more agreeable for the employer. So a well off lady got the job and the single mother was fired.

That is the essence of what Moni posted in her blog. She also commented the moral and ethics of the behaviour of this internationally well known non-governmental organisation. She found that there was a contradiction between the publically announced standards of the organisation and its practical behaviour. Transparency International is known to have voiced issues of moral and ethics in business all over the World.

Moni received an e-mail on Friday and an identical letter on paper on Saturday from a lawyer representing Transparency International Deutschland e.V. The lawyer demanded the blog post to be removed by midnight Sunday the 26th March which is less than 48 hours after the e-mail and less than 24 hours after receiving the snail mail. He threatened to sue Moni unless the blog post was removed and intimated to a large punitive damage claim. The post was said to be untrue and offensive but instead of arguing the case, the lawyer just wrote: "I am sparing myself from going into details of this issue". That is some transparency, is it not?

As could be expected, the case has provoked quite an outrage in the German blogosphere. As I am typing this post, "transparency international" is the top search in Technorati. Also, the web site of Transparency International – Deutschland e.V is hard to access from time to time.

Many of the bloggers are outraged for the ridiculously short notice of dead line which makes it practically impossible for Moni (who does not look like an experienced person judging from her blog profile photo) to consult a counselor. Needless to say that the blogging community is less than amused of the lawyer's intimidating and arrogant language. Many folks are also asking if the World wide Transparency International is aware of and agrees with this odd manner its German branch is promoting its public relations.

I am not a lawyer, just a simple journalist and blogger. That is why I am not going to comment the legal merits of this case although I am very much in doubt that Moni's post would be anything else than excercising her right to free speech. But I dare say without hesitation that a major public disaster has inevitably taken place and is not likely to be prepared easily. I would definitely not want to be in the shoes of that lawyer on Monday morning, neither in those of the former boss of Moni's friend. I would also think twice before switching on my cell phone on Monday if I were any of the two.


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  1. […] P.S.: kann jemand Finnisch? Englisch geht ja… […]

  2. The lawyer representing Transparency International – Deutschland e.V. also happens to be their “ethics counselor”

    How ironic.

  3. […] here, here, here, here, here und here What it is all about: here and here […]

  4. […] here, here, here, here, here und here What it is all about: here and here […]

  5. […] What it is all about: here and here […]

  6. Transparency International

    Oh, wonderful. Transparency International DE (that it, the German part of the global organisation) has got itself into a tangle with a blogger. Very quickly put, a part time worker was asked if she would work more hours. Answer, yes,

  7. Thank you for pointing out, Hannes. I was going to mention this in my post but forgot to do so.

    Ironic indeed. An ethical adviser caught with unethical intimidation. As I said, I would not want to be in his shoes when he comes to the office on Monday morning.

  8. Larko, your other post ( is estonian not finnish isn’t it ?

  9. Sapere, it is Estonian. I wrote the Estonian version first and the English version is a slightly moderated translation. I do have a Finnish blog, too, and I am going to post something about this bizarre incident there as well when I get the chance.

  10. just for the record :o) do you understand german well?
    … und woher hast Du Deine Infos? :o))

  11. :o) means smile ūüėÄ

  12. I understand German better than I speak it and I speak it better than I write it. I am old enough to have picked up a couple of lingos. ūüėČ *attempting to type a smile as well*

  13. I appreciate your contribution very much !!! I think it’s important to make important information accessible for bloggers worldwide. And violent constriction of the freedom of speech is important … see

  14. Now that you mentioned it, I have been saving and posting mirrors in my own server of some of the most important news pages in I also started a LiveJournal exclusively to post about the developments in Belarus:

    There are no secrets in the age of Internet and any attempt to put cover on events or mouth gag people is bound to fail. I can understand that a rude dictator does not understand it but an NGO with explicit goals to promote transparency? A law professor and ethical adviser bullying an unemployed young lady for promoting transparency? Good morning, Prof. Dr. J√ľrgen Marten!

  15. Transparency International successfully censored German weblog

    This article explains speaking readers, how Transparency manged to get with two search strings “Transparency” and “Transparency International” into the Technorati Top Five search.

  16. Du hast!!!!

  17. I am sorry, Lordgk, but I do not quite follow you.

  18. Bloguera alemana amenazada con denuncia por Transparency International

    La rama alemana de Transparency International est√° en medio de un desastre de relaciones p√ļblicas, debido a la carta enviada por su abogado a una joven bloguera alemana, que contaba en un post las codiciones de trabajo (y salario) de una amiga en esa…

  19. […] And here and here what it is all about. […]

  20. […] English translation wanted!!! (Larko maybe?) […]

  21. 1.000‚ā¨/month for 20 hours/week of work? Here at Spain this is the salary for 40 hour/week (and many many extra hours…) for an computer science analyst…

  22. Then again, Jose, the cost of living in Spain is not the same as in Berlin. Although we have a common currency, salaries between different countries are not comparable, as you surely know.

    But that is not the issue here. This is a matter of freedom of speach and ethical standards in general. An NGO that demands others to follow principles of transparency, integrity and accountability, is bullying an unemployed lady rather than following their very own standards.

  23. Of course, this is not the case and freedom of speach must be above all. I only did a comment and, maybe, out of context. That letter should never have written by that lawyer.

  24. […] The case “Moni” (usually a nickname for Monica) is being well discussed over here, in Germany. At first, due to the fact that a lot of bloggers are being sued at the moment, and secondly because of the prominent NGO “Transparency International” involved. There is English coverage at Larko’s Blog. […]

  25. I’m not sure I understand why something that happened in October is relevant now????
    “…The lawyer demanded the blog post to be removed by midnight Sunday the 26th October which is less than 48 hours after the e-mail and less than 24 hours after receiving the snail mail….”
    Was this incident recently made public?

  26. Thank you for pointing out my mistake, Dave. The entry has now been corrected. The correct date is of course 26th March. I seem to be living in a spiritual autumn. ūüėČ

  27. oh! Very sorry! Looks like I will have to read up on this one! Thanks for the info!

  28. Dave, I am the one who should be apologizing, not you. I am grateful that you helped me straighten out a mishap. Should be more careful. Happens when you blog in a hurry.

  29. In days like these I feel ashamed of being half-german.

  30. Issis, there is no reason to be ashamed of your nationality. This could have happened anywhere in the World. In fact, similar things happen all the time but they do not get the World wide attention that this case attracted.

    I take it as a sample of strength of the German blogging community that they were able to bring this to the attention of the global blogosphere. And I am happy to have been a part of awaking that attention, although I would be much happier if there were no need to do so.

  31. When my country started acting like a world-class asshole empire (do I HAVE to name it at this point?), my German friends and readers began to email me, “Are you people STUPID? Are you CRAZY? Have you paid NO attention to what happened in OUR country?”

    When I told them that our level of the understanding of their country’s history is really (no really!) based on “Hogan’s Heroes,” I heard actual email sputtering.

    Considering that the Germans in general are NOT going to put up with any of that totalitarian crap any more, and are on a well-informed and constant alert against it, I don’t think the Germans in general need be ashamed of themselves.

    So… can I apologize ahead of time for the idiot empire I live in?

  32. Wolffood, let us just leave the instrument of apology to be used on occasions when we have done something wrong. Do I need to spell out, which international NGO should strongly suggest their German chapter to use that instrument now?

  33. Transparency Int. versus the blog community

    How to escalate a non-story and make a PR disaster for yourself: A blogger named Moni learns that her friend didn’t get her contract at the German chapter of Transparency International renewed. Moni doesn’t like that and writes a (very…

  34. […] Via lawblog by Udo Vetter who is a lawyer himself. He recenty represented Moni in the case involving Transparency International – Deutschland. Mr Vetter writes that in case he was faced by a similar request, he would not release any information, at least not without a court order or a written request of the District Attorney. […]

  35. reply to Larko: you have to understand that rights of freedom of speach in germany are not the same as they are else where in the world, and the seniors at TI-D would have felt victimised by the blog community upon returning to work on monday morning, and not at all uncomfortable by their own actions.

  36. Mickey, as I have pointed out in several posts in this blog, the German legislation in the freedom of speech in the web is far more restrictive than in many other countries. I have also pointed out that one single country can not pretend that they are able to set the global standard for Internet conduct. Not even the biggest member country of EU. The web does not recognize national frontiers.

    In general terms, it is not very clever to blame the mirror if you do not like the face that looks back there. If TI gets bad blog publicity, there is very likely a good reason to it and they would be wise to look at their own behaviour as the reason to the bad publicity. This goes in particular in Moni’s case where they did obviously not even consider the chance that they could have done something otherwise than they did. At least initially.

  37. I would hate to be missunderstood as defending TI-D. All i am saying is that judging by their actions the seniors there do not seem to have the same understanding of the concept of freedom of speak as some of the rest of us, and therefore felt hard done by by the critism. some of the possible reasons the seniors continuing to hold such a mind-set are hinted at in other blogs.

  38. Mickey, I never thought that you would like to defend the TI-D. ūüėČ

    I understand that the power of Internet is not understood by many people that are used to another kind of communication environment. It seems that the German society as whole has not understood that we are in another age where regulating contents of and access to information is no longer the option it used to be.

    I am planning to make a fresh post later tonight on Marcel’s case and discuss the point you are making here.

  39. Larko, you could include a link to your blog on marcel. in any case i have to say that to my mind i find it strange that Monis freedom of speech rights are treated as a higher priority in the media than her friends employment case. both were wrong and injust.

  40. Mickey, if you surf around this blog a little, you will notice that I have several links to Marcel’s blog in my recent posts and also a permanent link in the blogroll.

    I agree that the employment situation of Moni’s friend would deserve further attention but that was not the issue of the days when Moni’s case broke out. It was urgent to react to the intimidation against her as it happened. Also, there is very little of solid public information about the specifics of her employment. And I was a bit conserned that some commentators in American blogs rather discussed the employment issue on a point of view that is irrelevant in context of European labor laws and practicies and thus risked to distract the focus.

  41. sorry, misunderstood, i thought yout meant you were going to start your own blog on marcel. yes, i came late into this, and missed the heat of discussion. personaly i dont know why more was not made about monis friend on the employment issue. what google shows is that she was on a probationary period for a half time job. normal reasoning says that either she was satisactory in that role or should be let go. TI-D went the extra step and said that she could have a 3/4 job or nothing. here you have to understand german employment law which allows a boss to not keep someome after their probation if they smile in the wrong fashion. TI-D did not do anything lawfully wrong. the fact that they did not appreciate that the moral issue was another matter is indicative of the leadership stile of the organisation. in fact their own web-sites show that the leader of TI-D used to be the leader of TI-HQ, a guy called horst. how and why that transition came about is another matter – hint. i also notice some americans critisising them for ‘only’ paying theit interns eur 300 per month; missing the point that most NGOs dont pay their interns anything.

  42. Why would I start blogging about Marcel? He does that better himself. ūüėČ I do of course refer to him and any other blogger whenever I spot something relevant to the context of my own posts.

    As I understand it, Moni’s friend is not eager to go public about her employment. That is understandable since it would no doubt make it very difficult for her to get another job.

    The very point of the probation is to make it easier to get legally rid of an employee and that is essentially the same in any country. Thus, TI-D can only be critisized on an ethical point of view. Both their treatment of Moni’s friend and the way they met Moni’s criticism show beyond reasonable doubt that there is a profound conflict between their announced principles and the way they live up to those principles in their own actions.

  43. […] I do hope that this would turn out to be a misunderstanding from their side because I would hate to see another respected international organisation made look silly by their German branch. You may remember the huge PR disaster caused to Transparency International in March by the reckless lawsuite against Moni. The mess was caused by the unethical advisor of the German branch against transparency. […]

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