German Court Rules That Report on Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Johann König Was Legal

A regional court in Hamburg, Germany, ruled that it was legal for German newspaper Die Zeit to publish a report that revealed sexual misconduct allegations against dealer Johann König.

As greater attention was paid to König and his Berlin gallery, whose roster has been reshaped in the months after the article’s publication, some in the German press cast doubt on the methodology behind the Die Zeit investigation. But the Hamburg Regional Court said this week that Die Zeit was allowed to publish the accusations against König because he was a public figure.

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“There is a legitimate public interest in being informed that an important and internationally active member of the cultural sector has been accused of repeatedly sexually harassing women,” the decision reads, according to the German press agency dpa.

“If a large number of allegations of this kind are made against a person in an area of ​​public life, there is an interest in the public that goes beyond the satisfaction of mere curiosity and is aimed at obtaining real information,” the decision continued.

Still, according to Simon Bergman, a lawyer for König, the court did rule that Die Zeit had to remove one portion from its report, which is still live. A lower court had already made it so that other portions could not be circulated.

Reiterating concerns about the methods of one of the reporters behind the story, Caroline Würfel, Bergman said in a statement, “All of this will play an important role, especially in the context of the action for damages against ‘ZEIT’ that we are preparing.”

The Die Zeit report said that 10 women, some of whom were not named, had accused König of misconduct in incidents that they said dated back several years in some cases. Some claimed that he had acted inappropriately in nightclubs.

König, whose gallery operates spaces in Berlin and Seoul, vehemently denied the allegations, attributing any potential misconduct to his partial blindness. There are currently no legal proceedings against him.

In the months after the investigation was published, the U.S. edition of König’s memoir was put on hold, and 10 artists departed the gallery. One of them was Monica Bonvicini, who publicly stated that she was pausing her representation with König Galerie as the claims were investigated, only to see the gallery sever ties with her itself.

In a statement to dpa, a Die Zeit representative said that the publication was “pleased that the judges decided in favor of critical reporting.”


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