After the terrorist attack in Berlin, the media started to broadcast much information about the people involved.

It seems to me that this just supports the terrorists' motivation of fame and allows them to know what the police knows. So why aren't the names of the terrorists kept in secret, just as they have to be by law when anyone for ex. takes a shot on a camera of a stealing in a shop?

  • In the US we have free speech rights. I suspect there is something similar in Germany Jan 9, 2017 at 18:52
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    Free speech is irrelevant here @DrunkenSanta9035768, the police are within the rights if they chose to not disclose certain information while investigating a crime. Also, if you read the question a bit more carefully, you'll notice that it mentions that the German police does not usually release as much information for lesser crimes as they did for the terrorist attack.
    – yannis
    Jan 9, 2017 at 19:36
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    I don't think I follow @DrunkenSanta9035768. Free speech is about the right of expressing opinions without censorship or restraint from the government. It doesn't have much to do with whether the police will release certain information or not. In several countries there are laws that protect the identity of people accused of crimes, are you suggesting that these laws somehow conflict with freedom of speech?
    – yannis
    Jan 9, 2017 at 19:48
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    Is there evidence of personal (rather than organizational) fame seeking being a major motive for terrorism?
    – user9389
    Jan 9, 2017 at 19:54
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    @yannis - Yes those laws conflict with freedom of speech. If I can not say I think you are guilty, I also can not say I think you are innocent. Jan 9, 2017 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


When considering whether (or when) to release information to the public, police have conflicting motivations, which are summarized by the Association of Chief Police Officers (of England, Wales, and Northern Ireland) [A]:

  1. Suspects have rights regarding the release of their information.
  2. The community has some right to know about crime in their area.
  3. The agency has the right to withhold information based on its operational concerns, but otherwise should make information available.

Police are allowed to keep information a secret, and are encouraged to in some cases. Information should generally be kept secret until charges are filed. Agencies may open themselves up to libel charges if they release names of people who ultimately are not charged with a crime.

ACPO’s guidance is not to release information on suspects except when necessary to:

  • Prevent or detect a crime
  • Assisting the investigation by apprehending a suspect or finding witnesses
  • Reassure or inform the public

The public has the right to know about crimes committed in their area. Beyond the police's need to reassure or inform the public about crimes, the guidance is to allow circumstances (like a strong local or national interest) to be a factor when deciding whether to release information or not.

[A] The linked guidance applies to the release of images of suspects. Other articles refer to ACPO guidance on the release of names, but I haven't been able to find that document online. The principles named in their guidance seem transferable between the two cases.

[B] This is all similar to how agencies (both law enforcement and non-law enforcement) in the United States handle releasing information. Information is presumed to be public, but may be closed at their discretion. This is typically done for confidential information (like personal identification) and operational concerns.

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