Schroeder in legal fight with media over rumored marital strife

Wednesday, January 22, 2003

BERLIN -- Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder failed to win a clean victory Tuesday in his legal fight to quash German media rumors that his marriage is on the rocks.

Schroeder's lawyer vowed to take the case to a trial after a mixed ruling by a Berlin court.

The hearing was the latest development in the image-conscious chancellor's efforts to keep the press out of his private life.

After legal action last year to silence reports that he dyes his hair, Schroeder obtained injunctions against two regional newspapers not to repeat their reports in early December of rumored problems with his fourth wife, Doris Schroeder-Koepf.

Schroeder also obtained a Hamburg court injunction ordering a British tabloid, the Mail on Sunday, to stop reporting on his alleged marital strife. The tabloid has defied the ruling.

The German papers, which share Berlin correspondent Gunther Hartwig, challenged the injunction. Tuesday's ruling concerned only the Maerkische Oderzeitung, located in the eastern city of Frankfurt an der Oder. The other newspaper, the Suedwestpresse, will have a separate hearing.

Because of a procedural error -- Schroeder's lawyer had failed to notify the newspaper's lawyer about the injunction -- the court forced the chancellor to drop the gag order against the Maerkische Oderzeitung.

But the packed Berlin courtroom heard a judge express sympathy for Schroeder's fight.

"Even a politician who is not exactly media-shy doesn't have to accept everything," Judge Manfred Mauck said. "The worst thing is when rumors are spread ... That can beat anyone down."

Schroeder and his wife, a 39-year-old former journalist, have vehemently defended their marriage.

"We can account for every second of our lives," Schroeder-Koepf told Stern magazine. "Every crisis is documented. But there is no crisis, because we are happily married."

She added that the reported rumors were "clearly a campaign" against the chancellor, whose popularity has fallen since his re-election last fall because of tax hikes and rising unemployment.

The newspaper's lawyer, Johannes Weberling, said the Maerkische Oderzeitung could now continue to report on the chancellor's marriage.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: