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The Fourth Estate or the Kingdom of Lies?

How German journalists do not hesitate to use confidential information for personal gains.

The German press just can’t catch a break. Only recently did the “Der Spiegel” scandal die down. Back then one of the most important journalists of the outlet, Claas Relotius, was accused of “inventing” articles for personal gain and prestigious awards. He later acknowledged that that was indeed the case.

Now, apparently, it’s the turn of Handelsblatt magazine to be publicly humiliated. Its editor-in-chief Sven Afhüppe, as well as editors Lars-Marten Nagel and Jakob Blume, were summoned to the police. They are accused of illegal access to closed police databases.

The scandal has already caused Udo Münch, the Hessen city police chief to resign.

According to our data, on July 15, 2020, a representative of Karatbars, Harald Seitz, filed a statement with the prosecutor’s office on the suspicions of disclosure of official confidential information. A criminal case was opened under Article 353b, 26 of the Criminal Code of the Federal Republic of Germany.

An audio recording lasting just over an hour was presented as evidence. In it, people identified as Lars-Marten Nagel and Jakob Blume illegally request certain information through the Closed Police Information System (POLIS). According to official statements, the authorities have already questioned possible witnesses who testified against the Handelsblatt journalists on record.

The story is interesting due to the fact that Handelsblatt at first actually advertised Karatbars in its materials (based on the advertising contracts), and only then published a series of negative articles about the company, citing the words of a “former Karatbars programmer” as a source.

Harald Seitz, a spokesman for Karatbars, claimed that the materials caused investors “huge losses”. According to him, the “ex-programmer”, who was cited as Handelsblatt’s source, was fired from Karatbars not long ago for the lack of work ethics and unprofessionalism.

In addition to this, Mr. Seitz claims that the German Interior Ministry issued an official document confirming his innocence and the lack of suspicion of him on the part of the state. He considers the fact that Handelsblatt employees did not mention this in their materials as proof of their real intent – to collapse the rate of KaratGold Coin (KBC) and cause losses to investors, which is what ultimately happened.

It is worth saying that should the information published in the media be confirmed, then another big German newspaper risks finding itself tied to yet another huge media scandal. Pushing forward unsubstantiated, potentially unprovable, but destructive accusations in an attempt to release “hot” material, especially without any real evidence, and even more so breaking the law just to do it, undoubtedly crosses most of the “red lines” in the world of journalism.

Handelsblatt employees, however, do not seem to be too worried about their fate. Despite the open criminal case and many unsightly details such as a recording where they, apparently, openly violate the law, Messrs. Blume and Nagel remain free, continue their activity and churn out one article after another in their never-ending quest for fresh scoops.

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