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Germany – Broadcaster wins legal dispute over Amazon documentary

14 June 2013

A district court in Germany has lifted an interim injunction against public broadcaster HR over the alleged misrepresentations in a TV documentary, which depicted poor working conditions of Amazon agency workers.

The report caused a media storm, both in Germany and abroad, with online retailer Amazon standing accused of mistreating its temporary agency workers. It showed how seasonal workers lived in poor housing conditions and were harassed by security guards while working for Amazon last year.

The authenticity of the allegations discredited the entire staffing industry and was questioned by a local law firm, Kanzlei Höcker, which requested a provisional injunction over the alleged misrepresentations in the film. The law firm represents two companies formerly used by Amazon to provide accommodation and security services to the agency workers. It criticised the language used against its clients, also claiming that witnesses in the film had been invented.

But a district court in Hamburg has now lifted the injunction, saying the language and views formed in the film are covered by the right of freedom of opinion. It further said that other witnesses could back the allegations against the companies which came under criticism for the poor handling of security and accommodation regarding the agency workers.

The broadcaster always denied claims of inventing witnesses for the documentary. After the verdict, the law firm said it would appeal the sentence. “We will appeal and provide further evidence. The documentary, which amongst other things invented an oppressed agency worker from Poland, is a bad example of dubious journalism.” 

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