Der Spiegel to Pull Unsupported Claims Against the MEK
On Tuesday, March 26, the New York Times reported on the decision from a German court ordering German magazine Der Spiegel to pull passages of an article for unsupported allegations. Der Spiegel published a feature on the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) last month. In it, the magazine made brazenly false allegations that the group engages in activities that amount to torture.
In a statement, the group categorically denied the allegations. The MEK accused the publication of promoting the Iranian regime’s international objectives and deliberately participating in the mullahs’ disinformation campaign against the political opposition.
Analyzing the Claims
In the piece, Der Spiegel accused the MEK of practicing massacres and torture at its compound in Albania. It also accused the group of holding members against their will.
Both are claims often repeated by the Iranian regime. The regime wants to sway international opinion against the political opposition. The MEK is a pro-democracy group that stands opposed to the mullahs’ brand of religious fascism. By painting MEK members as bloodthirsty savages, the regime attempts to legitimize its violent terror campaign and assassination attempts against the MEK membership both within Iran and abroad.
The MEK, upon hearing of the article’s impending publication and its contents, invited Der Spiegel’s journalists to visit its compound in Albania and witness the conditions there for themselves. They refused. Had they have taken the MEK up on its offer, they would have seen that they do not engage in the activities they stand accused of.
International court cases brought against the MEK by regime stooges for allegedly holding members against their will have been dismissed. This information is widely available online. Even a rudimentary observance of basic journalistic fact-checking principles would have revealed many of the allegations laid out in the article to be categorically false. But Der Spiegel published it anyway.
Deep Ties with the Iranian Regime
There were also indications that the magazine conspired with the Iranian regime in the publication of the hit piece against the Iranian opposition group. Before the article was published, sections appeared on an Iranian state-affiliated website.
A journalist working on the piece was also hosted in Iran and granted access to the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
A court in Hamburg ordered Der Spiegel to remove the unsupported allegations from its website. The magazine will have to pay a 250,000 euro fine (US$282,000) if it fails to adhere to journalistic standards, and repeats the claims on any of its publications.
The MEK celebrated the ruling. The group released a statement accusing the magazine of “spreading a wealth of lies and false allegations.”
In the age of fake news and rampant disinformation online, the ruling represents a victory for truth and justice. Western media outlets must be held accountable for journalistic standards. Their reporting can have very dangerous implications for political groups like the MEK, who are a constant target of Iranian state-sponsored violence and terrorism. The media must remain a guardian of truth, not a political mouthpiece. Der Spiegel has demonstrated that its lack of commitment to truth, instead choosing to become a political tool to a violent and repressive foreign dictatorship.