German journalists uncovered the illegal export of German G36 firearms to Mexico — powerful weapons that were on the scene in Iguala in 2014 when three students were killed and 43 more disappeared. So who are German authorities investigating? The very journalists who provided prosecutors with the information in the first place.
By Martin Reischke and cross-posted from El Daily Post
Over the last couple of weeks, life has been a roller coaster ride for Daniel Harrich, a young German filmmaker and investigative journalist. In April, Harrich and his colleagues won the prestigious Grimme Award – Germany’s Pulitzer Prize – for their research and reporting on illicit shipments of G36 firearms from Germany to Mexico.
Last October, German public television broadcast “Deadly Exports,” a documentary on the fraudulent arms deals made by German arms company Heckler & Koch. The film was produced by Harrich and his team. Harrich also co-authored the book “Network of Death,” an investigative account on the same topic.
In November 2015, six former Heckler & Koch employees were charged with breaching the War Weapons Control Act by participating in the illegal shipments of German G36 firearms to Mexico from 2006 to 2009. Many say the charges were the direct result of growing public pressure brought about by Harrich and other media coverage.
It was a shock to Harrich to find out that only weeks after receiving the prestigious Grimme Award he and four other journalists were being investigated by the same prosecutor’s office they helped to win the convictions. The journalists might be slapped with a heavy fine or a year in prison if they are convicted of publishing internal documents related to the ongoing legal case against Heckler&Koch.
Harrich’s efforts to uncover the truth about the illicit German-Mexican arms deal backfired. Instead of investigating, Harrich is being investigated. “They’re sending us a clear message: Whatever we’re trying to do and to uncover, we won’t succeed,” says Harrich.
Harrich claims the case against him and the other journalists is revenge for the pressure built up by the journalists not only against H&K, but also against German authorities. As Harrich’s research shows, German authoritiessuch as the Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy and its sub-agency the Federal Office for Economic Affairs and Export Control turned a blind eye to what was happening with the rifles.
This lack of government accountability continues. Although the former H&K employees were charged with participating in the illegal shipments and will most likely go to trial, the German authorities are not held accountable for their actions due to “lack of probable cause,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
Read the original El Daily Post coverage of the illicit German arms shipment to Mexico, “How German firearms ended up at the Iguala tragedy,” here.
To Harrich, the way the German authorities are dealing with their own mistakes is worrisome. “They seem to be covering each other’s back and trying to hold back evidence,” says the journalist.
The potential charges against Harrich and his colleagues for leaking internal documents seem bizarre when you realize these journalists collaborated with the prosecutor’s office in the first place.
They passed on documents they uncovered during their research, thushelping the prosecutor’s office in Stuttgart build its case against Heckler&Koch. In fact, some of the documents at issue were among the documents Harrich and his team passed on to the prosecutor’s office.
“If you’re first trying to collaborate with the authorities and then get charged with a crime for it, well, that seems rather strange to me,” Harrich says…