German Press Council

We are the voluntary self-regulation of the German press.

The German Press Council is the body responsible for enforcing the voluntary self-regulation of the print media and their online presences in Germany. Through addressing complaints about press behaviour, we monitor compliance with the ethical rules for the daily work of journalists laid down in the German Press Code.

The Press Council is responsible for preserving the reputation of the German press, while protecting its freedom. Furthermore, the Press Council champions the unimpeded access by journalists to news sources and ensures self-regulation with regard to editorial data protection and financial market reporting.

German Press Code - rules for fair journalism

Not everything that is legally permitted is defensible from an ethical point of view. That is why the German Press Council has published its Code of Ethics in 1973. These are rules for journalists' daily work that ensure that professional ethics in journalism are maintained, for example:

  • respect for the truth and maintaining human dignity
  • thorough and fair research
  • respect for the right to privacy, a private life and no intrusion
  • avoidance of inappropiate sensational portrayals of violence and brutality


The Press Council may impose the following sanctions:

  • public reprimand (with obligation to print this)
  • non-public reprimand (in the interest of victims’ protection)
  • notice of censure
  • advice notice

Furthermore, the Complaints Committee can refrain from imposing a sanction in spite of a justified complaint if the publication has put the matter in order e.g. by printing a reader’s letter or an editorial correction.

Who can complain?

Anyone can complain to the German Press Council – whether personally affected or not, whether private individual, association or party. We accepts complaints on all kinds of journalistic work that has been published in a newspaper, a magazine or on the internet. However the Press Council does not deal with free sheets or private homepages. Also the Press Council is not dealing with radio, television or advertisements.

The complaint is free of charge. The Press Council is not dealing with legal issues.

Structure and Organization

The Press Council is organised as a registered association under German law. This association is comprised of two publishing and two journalist organisations:

• Federation of German Newspaper Publishers (BDZV)
• German Federation of Journalists (DJV)
• German Journalists Union (dju) within the German United Trade Services Union (ver.di)
• Association of German Magazine Publishers (VDZ)

Each of these four organisations provides two members for the so-called supporting association. This supervisory board deals with the basic financial, personnel-related and organisational matters of the Press Council.

The plenum – that is, the general assembly of the Press Council – discusses content-related ethical issues such as new guidelines for the Code or public statements. The plenum also decides on the complaints procedure. This 28-member body meets twice a year. The representatives, who are elected by the four organisations that make up the registered association, work on a voluntary basis.

The work of the Press Council is financed from two sources: in the first place, the four organisations that make up the registered association pay contributions. In the second place, since 1976, the German Federal government has granted an annual subsidy specifically for the work of the Complaints Committee. The payment of this subsidy has its basis in a separate law.

AIPCE - Network of European Press Councils

The German Press Council is a member of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils in Europe AIPCE. We participate in the network's annual conferences and exchange media-ethical issues with each other throughout the year.