German election director eyes possible quiet period before election

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany should consider imposing a “quiet period” immediately before the federal election in September, similar to a media policy in place in France, election director Dieter Sarreither said, amid concerns about possible meddling by Russia.

“We should discuss it and examine whether such steps are necessary,” Sarreither told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in an interview published on Saturday.

France has a 24-hour ban on media reports that could affect a French election before polls open.

The measure helped to prevent more widespread reporting of a massive hack that released emails, documents and financing information just before campaigning ended ahead of the May election.

The German government last month warned political parties to step up their defenses against hacking after the leak of emails which belonged to the campaign of Emmanuel Macron before he was elected French president.

The head of Germany’s domestic intelligence agency in May accused Russian rivals of gathering large amounts of political data in cyber attacks that the Kremlin might decide to put to use ahead of Germany’s September election.

Russia denies any meddling in U.S. or European elections.

Sarreither told the Welt am Sonntag that he had created a task force to examine the risks of a cyber attack on the German election, and the BSI federal cyber agency was continually testing the election network.

He said the testing had shown that certain elements of the system’s information technology - which were two to three years old - required updates, but gave no further details.

He said a major test of the election system and infrastructure was planned for the Saturday before the Sept. 24 election.

German votes are cast on paper, with results tabulated by hand and eventually entered into a computer system.

Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrew Bolton