Der Spiegel: Reporter Collected Donations for Fake Syrian Orphan, Charges to be Pressed - iMediaEthics
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Der Spiegel is pressing charges against former reporter Claas Relotius, who the German magazine revealed had faked interviews and articles. Der Spiegel is pressing charges because the magazine says Relotius collected money for two Syrian orphans he wrote about and that money was funneled into his own bank account, the New York Times reported. Making matters worse, one of those orphans apparently isn’t real.

According to a Google Translate of Der Spiegel‘s report: “The former freelancer of SPIEGEL not only invented the story in large parts – but also collected money from the readers under false pretenses, which he apparently has not, as promised, passed on.” The article said that readers had contacted Der Spiegel to ask how they could financially help the two children featured in Relotius’ article, and without Der Spiegel‘s knowledge, Relotius contacted them privately and accepted money sent to his bank account. Der Spiegel noted that Relotius’s lawyer sent a press release in which Relotius “essentially admitted the above allegations,” but claimed he used donations for “another good cause.”

iMediaEthics has contacted Relotius’s lawyer to ask for more information and confirmation.

As iMediaEthics previously reported, Der Spiegel reported that Relotius fabricated in “at least 14 articles”of roughly 60 published articles and the magazine said it would investigate. According to the magazine, Relotius, 33, worked for Der Spiegel for seven years. “Truth and lies are mixed together in his articles and some, at least according to him, were even cleanly reported and free of fabrication,” Der Spiegel reported. “Others, he admits, were embellished with fudged quotes and other made-up facts. Still others were entirely fabricated.”

Problematic stories include:

  • Relotious’ article about Fergus Falls, Minnesota, which prompted real residents of the town to dispute the claims — Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn’s Medium blogpost explained: “Not only did Relotius’ “exposé” on Fergus Falls make unrecognizable movie-like characters out of the people in my town that I interact with on a daily basis, but its very basic lack of truth and its bizarrely bleak portrayal of the place I love left a very sick, unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.” Der Spiegel published a new article explaining that the story was “a fantasy.”
  • Relotious submitted an interview with Traute Lafrenz, who was part of the White Rose anti-Nazi group; she later said some of the quotes were faked.
  • Relotius’ article about Arizona militiamen that Relotius’ co-author revealed had faked interviews
  • An alleged interview with controversial professional football player Colin Kaepernick’s parents, when Kaepernick’s lawyer said there was “no basis” in Relotius’ report
  • A March 2018 article about a woman in favor of the death penalty who watches state executions, that was completely fabricated. “He made up the story, all 40,273 characters, five pages and one column of it, published in DER SPIEGEL 10/2018, pages 58 to 63. Even for someone in his league, that must be some kind of a record.,” the magazine wrote.

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Der Spiegel: Reporter Collected Donations for Fake Syrian Orphan, Charges to be Pressed

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