German news magazine Der Spiegel sacks star reporter Claas Relotius for fabricating stories
Der Spiegel said Claas Relotius told editors his fabrications were an attempt to avoid failure. (Twitter: @welt)
Germany’s Der Spiegel magazine has fired Claas Relotius, an award-winning staff writer, after finding he fabricated and invented facts in many articles in recent years.
- Der Spiegel says Relotius admitted to fabricating at least 14 stories while working for the news outlet
- Senior editors confronted Relotius after a fellow journalist at the magazine voiced suspicions
- Der Spiegel described the incident as a low point in its 70-year history
Some of the roughly 60 stories Relotius had written since 2011 were accurate but others were “completely invented or embellished with manipulated quotes or other fact-fantasy”, the magazine said on its website.
“Truth and lie are muddled in his texts,” Der Spiegel said.
Among the fabricated stories were articles about a wrongfully detained Guantanamo inmate, about children kidnapped by Islamic State, and about a woman attending the execution of a death sentence as a witness in the United States.
Der Spiegel said it had immediately terminated his work contract. Relotius, who is 33 years old and started writing for Der Spiegel in 2011, was not available for comment.
The magazine said Relotius’s senior editors confronted him after a fellow journalist at the magazine voiced suspicions.
Der Spiegel published a report on its website into Mr Relotius’s conduct. (AP: Kay Nietfeld/dpa)
Relotius then admitted that he had fabricated content a number of articles he had written, it said.
Der Spiegel said the incident marked a “low point in the 70-year history” of the magazine and apologised for his actions.
It cited Relotius as saying that at least 14 of the articles he wrote for Der Spiegel, some of which won awards, did not meet journalistic standards.
“Claas Relotius acted with intent, methodically and with a high level of criminal energy,” Der Spiegel said, adding that he had written about and cited people he had never met or spoken to.
Relotius told his editors: “It was not about having the next big thing. It was fear of failing.”
“The pressure not to fail became bigger the more successful I became,” he said, according to Der Spiegel.
The reporter previously worked for other German and Swiss publications and won numerous awards, including CNN Journalist of the Year in 2014.
Relotius most recently won an award in early December, for a story about a child in war-torn Syria.
The German reporters’ association, which handed out the award, said it was “aghast” and “angry” about the news.