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Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) must provide further details in the so-called “helicopter affair.” This was decided by the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia.

A luxury trip at the taxpayer’s expense? Federal Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht has been facing these accusations since the middle of the year. Lambrecht’s son accompanied his mother on a business trip in a Bundeswehr helicopter. So far, the SPD politician has not provided any information about the exact background. Now the Higher Administrative Court NWR has ruled: the Federal Minister of Defense must answer questions from journalists on this subject.

What happened?

In April 2022, Christine Lambrecht flew by Bundeswehr helicopter to a Bundeswehr unit in northern Germany as part of a business trip. On board: her 21-year-old son Alexander. He posted a photo of himself in the BW helicopter on Instagram – and triggered a flood of critical inquiries. Lambrecht paid just 261 euros for her son’s flight, which was only a fraction of the total cost. As a result, a journalist from the Tagesspiegel newspaper contacted the minister. Among other things, he wanted to know who had taken the sensitive photo in the first place. Lambrecht, however, refused to answer.

The first lawsuit was already successful

In May, the “Tagesspiegel” finally filed a lawsuit with the Administrative Court in Cologne, citing the freedom of the press enshrined in the German constitution. The court ruled that Lambrecht must answer questions about the photo. The SPD politician appealed, citing her “inner area of privacy.” The case went to the next higher instance and ended up before the Higher Administrative Court of North Rhine-Westphalia. The verdict? Unambiguous! The photo was taken in connection with the minister’s official activities – and not in a protected private context. Moreover, the minister had “freely interwoven her private concerns with the performance of her official duties.”

A victory for press freedom

The German Journalists’ Association sees the ruling as a victory for press freedom. The courts have strengthened journalists’ right to information, the association said in a statement. Lambrecht herself let it be known shortly after the ruling that she had taken the photo of her son herself, who had then posted the photo online.

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