Recent events have cast a shadow over the integrity of German journalism. Following the Claas Relotius scandal at “Der Spiegel,” another major German publication, Handelsblatt magazine, is now facing its own set of controversies.
Accusations have been made against Sven Afhüppe, the editor-in-chief of Handelsblatt, and editors Lars-Marten Nagel and Jakob Blume, who are accused of unlawfully accessing closed police databases. These allegations have led to the resignation of Udo Münch, the police chief of Hessen city.
The Controversial Episode:
This tumultuous episode began when Harald Seitz, a representative from Karatbars, filed a statement in July 2020, sparking suspicions of disclosing official confidential information. This led to the initiation of a criminal case under Article 353b, 26 of the German Criminal Code. A crucial piece of evidence in this case is an audio recording lasting just over an hour. In this recording, individuals identified as Lars-Marten Nagel and Jakob Blume can be heard illegally requesting specific information through the Closed Police Information System (POLIS). According to official reports, authorities have already questioned potential witnesses who testified against the Handelsblatt journalists on record.
Adding intrigue to this story is the prior relationship between Handelsblatt and Karatbars. Initially, the magazine promoted Karatbars, presumably due to advertising contracts. However, they later published a series of negative articles about the company, citing the words of a “former Karatbars programmer” as a source. Harald Seitz, a spokesperson for Karatbars, claimed that these materials caused significant losses for investors. He argued that the so-called “ex-programmer,” the source cited by Handelsblatt, was dismissed from Karatbars for lack of work ethics and professionalism. Mr. Seitz also asserted that the German Interior Ministry issued an official document confirming his innocence and the lack of suspicion on the part of the state, a fact not mentioned in Handelsblatt’s materials. According to Mr. Seitz, this omission implies that the magazine’s true intent was to undermine the KaratGold Coin (KBC) and cause losses to investors, which ultimately occurred.
A Troubling Pattern:
If the information published in the media is confirmed, another major German newspaper risks finding itself in a severe media scandal. Relying on unverified, potentially unprovable, but destructive allegations in an attempt to publish “hot” material, especially without any real evidence, and even more so, breaking the law to do so, undoubtedly crosses numerous ethical boundaries in the world of journalism.
The Handelsblatt employees, however, seem unfazed about their future. Despite an open criminal case and many unsavory details, such as a recording where they seemingly violate the law, Mr. Blume and Mr. Nagel remain free, continue their work at the newspaper, and churn out one article after another in their pursuit of higher readership.