The Power of Images: Between Press Freedom and Human Dignity


Images of war, terribly wounded people, and destroyed buildings have been a regular part of daily media reporting since well before the conflict in Syria. Insofar as the press documents the extent of inhuman acts, destruction, and suffering, it is performing its informational function, producing a public sphere, and contributing to the formation of public opinion. It is protected in this role by the press freedom enshrined in the German Basic Law.

But this isn’t limitless. One such limit is human dignity, a fundamental pillar of the constitution. This is given concrete form in part through the Interstate Treaty on the Protection of Minors from Harmful Media (JMStV), which mandates that people who die or are subjected to significant bodily or mental suffering must not be depicted without a legitimate interest in doing so.

A balance must be found between these two principles. Media producers and media-oversight bodies often come into conflict on the issue. What reporting methods are the press allowed to employ? How do images of war affect the public, victims, and their families? What legal limits must be respected?


Julian Reichelt, Editor-in-chief, BILD digital

Andreas Fischer, Chairman, Commission for the Protection of Minors in the Media (KJM)

Prof. Dr. Dr. Ino Augsberg, Professor of Legal Philosophy and Public Law, Christian Albrechts University of Kiel

Dr. Stephanie Geise, Professor of Communications Studies, University of Erfurt


Christine Watty, Journalist and Presenter