Green party (Die Gruenen) co-chair Ricarda Lang was targetted in the posters. EPA-EFE/RONALD WITTEK


German businessman cleared in ‘mocking politicians’ case


Michael Much, a German entrepreneur who had last week faced a €6,000 fine for mocking Green politicians, has been acquitted.

Shortly before last autumn’s state elections in Bavaria, Much had hung posters on his fence making fun of Green Party leader Ricarda Lang, foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, economics minister Robert Habeck, and agriculture minister Cem Özdemir.

The Greens were enraged, describing the posters as defamatory and insulting.

Police searched Much’s house and removed and confiscated the posters. The public prosecutor imposed a penalty order of €6,000 for “criminal insult to politicians”.

Much did not agree and went to court. On March 21, the case ended with an acquittal.

The public prosecutor had argued that mockingly portraying the politicians was “impertinent and defamatory, even dehumanising.”

It added that such ridicule, during an election campaign, would make it more difficult for politicians to carry out their public work and position.

The public prosecutor said freedom of expression had to be weighed against human dignity, accusing Much of wanting to spread “a certain mood” and stating that propaganda does not fall under freedom of expression.

“Expressing that Ms Lang is too fat to do good politics, that goes too far,” the prosecutor said in court.

Lang was depicted on the poster but it was difficult to discern if she was sitting on a steamroller or portrayed as one, observers said, opening a debate about her more than-average body weight.

In closing arguments, defence attorney Christoph Partsch said: “Ricarda Lang is fat, you can’t just portray her as thin.”

Partsch also referred to political debates where, he said, strong statements are more the rule than the exception.

Cited were statements such as: “The Greens make so much crap that they would have to fall under the fertilizer ordinance,” according to Prime Minister Markus Södern of the Christian Democrats.

Partsch also pointed to popular TV-shows doing, he said, that did the same. If the court found against Much, it would mean a ban on creating political caricatures.

In acquitting Much, the presiding judge said: “The difficulty with this trial is that it is about images, and when it comes to images, everyone has their own point of view.”

The judge also stressed that one must contemplate the intention of a statement. One could take the most negative interpretation – but equally a much more benevolent one. As long as the possibility remains that a less stringent interpretation was intended, one cannot simply condemn a person, he said.

“Politicians have to accept criticism, and ministers have to accept even more criticism.

“If Mr Much is a [fourth-generation] entrepreneur … dissatisfied with politics, he is allowed to express it.”