The Hamburg Court Will Not Allow the FAZ to Tell Lies About the Iranian People’s Mojahedin (MEK)
Hamburg Regional Court endorses the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI)’s a lawsuit against the German daily, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) for defaming The People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran). The court has demanded that the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) deletes all three allegations targeting the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) which had been included in an article with the title “The Devil Should Be Living in Tirana,” which was published in mid-May. The court said that anything contained in the articles should not be considered true.
Following the lawsuit, which was filed by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) after several defamatory allegations were made by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) on May 13, 2020, against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) and its members who are living in Albania, a court in Hamburg ruled that the newspaper must eliminate these false allegations which are located in the online version of the publication.
The lawsuit contested by the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) against the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) regarding false allegations, which are:
- “The defectors, humiliated as agents, report of torture and persecution within the Organization.”
- “Members are forbidden from contacting their relatives and possessing mobile phones.”
- “With the help of the United Nations, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) flew to this Muslim country [Albania] in western Balkans by 2016.”
Because the court found these statements to be untrue it has requested the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) pay a fine of up to €250,000 for each of the offenses. If the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) cannot find the money they can expect to endure a detention order for up to six months. Additionally, the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) is required to pay all legal costs related to the case.
Following the publication of the article on Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ).net, the German Representative Office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) approached the paper’s editorial board and showed documents in writing that refuted the allegations.
This is not the only time this has happened, as in March the court in Hamburg issued an injunction, requesting that the German magazine Der Spiegel eliminate 2 similar defamatory allegations against the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI / MEK Iran) which took place in mid- February last year. This decision resembles the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) case and Der Spiegel was told if it didn’t follow the requested defamatory material it could face a €250,000 fine or a prison term of 6 months for each breach. As a result, the magazine removed the offending articles.
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.
A HAMBURG COURT RULES AGAINST DER SPIEGEL IN BLOW TO REGIME’S MISINFORMATION CAMPAIGN
A Hamburg court struck a blow to the Iranian regime’s misinformation and demonization campaign against the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK). On Thursday, March 21, a Hamburg court ruled that German Magazine Der Spiegel acted illegally by spreading false accusations against the MEK. It determined that the magazine had failed to adhere to the basic principles of journalism and adequately fact check information it received from the clerical regime in Iran.
VILE LIES AND FALSEHOODS
In an article published in the magazine on February 19, Der Spiegel printed a host of lies and falsehoods about the Iranian pro-democracy organization. In particular, it repeated regime lies that accuse the MEK of engaging in brutal violence and torture, which were proved to be incorrect, the court order says.
The MEK pointed out that Der Spiegel’s “journalist” who researched the piece, worked closely with the Iranian regime and Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The magazine also ignored the MEK’s requests to visit its compound in Albania, Camp Ashraf, the alleged site of torture and violence. Der Spiegel’s unwillingness to visit the MEK’s site at the invitation of the group demonstrated a lack of interest in uncovering the truth and reality of the situation in Albania. It showed the magazine preferred to spout fabrications at the behest of the Iranian regime.
Part of the article was even published before its release on a website controlled by the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS). This illustrates the deep cooperation between Der Spiegel and the clerical regime.
Following the article’s publication, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the umbrella organization which includes the MEK, applied for an injunction in the Hamburg courts against the magazine.
The court ruled that Der Spiegel is now prohibited from publishing allegations of torture against the MEK at its settlement in Albania. The court decided that the NCRI had “substantiated the false nature” of the allegations. It also prevented the magazine from publishing any further allegations that accuse the group of practicing “cutting throats with knives, breaking hands, piercing eyes with fingers” and, “tearing corners of the mouth.”
The court determined that Der Spiegel’s investigation methods did not meet national journalistic standards, making the information unlawfully reported.
The court threatened Der Spiegel with a €250,000 fine. In the event that the magazine cannot, or will not, pay the fine, the court invoked a custodial sentence of up to six months.
Der Spiegel removed the illegal statements from its article online.
EMBOLDENING THE IRANIAN REGIME
The original article repeated regime mistruths and lies. It was welcomed by the regime’s state-run media. The Mehr and Fars news agencies both ran pieces echoing Der Spiegel’s claims to much fanfare and many other Iranian media outlets published translations of the article.
In a statement from the NCRI, its representative office in Germany explained the danger of allowing regime misinformation to propagate. “By spreading false information, the regime justifies its domestic massacres of the PMOI/MEK and prepares the ground for its terrorist operations on European and foreign soil,”. Referring to the reasons for a rise in the misinformation campaigns against the MEK, the statement says:
“After the safe and organized relocation of the PMOI/MEK from Iraq to abroad, and after popular uprisings in Iran in January 2018 and the end of US appeasement of this regime, the Iranian regime has resorted to intense terrorism and disinformation campaigns against the PMOI/MEK and Iranian Resistance, believing this to be a remedy to its existential crisis. By spreading false information, the regime justifies its domestic massacres of the PMOI/MEK and prepares the ground for its terrorist operations on European and foreign soil. Additionally, it messages a lie to Western circles that there is no alternative to this regime and that if it were overthrown, conditions in Iran would worsen.”
As a result, the ruling in Hamburg must be viewed as a victory. Not just for the MEK, but for truth, democracy, and stability both in Iran and in the West. The regime must not be permitted to hijack Western media outlets to advance its own objectives and undermine regional security. It is our collective responsibility to challenge regime lies, wherever they occur.
DER SPIEGEL’S LOST CREDIBILITY IN THE SERVICE OF IRANIAN RELIGIOUS FASCISM
The German magazine Der Spiegel in an article on Feb. 16, 2019, entitled “Prisoners of the Riots”, gave a very unfair report on the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK) and its new compound, Ashraf 3. The group, which is the largest and most serious opposition force to the Mullahs’ ruling regime, relocated to Albania on the site of Ashraf 3 following intense persecution and violent attacks in both Iran and Iraq.
The Der Spiegel article is based on the widely discredited and false testimony of ex-members of PMOI (MEK), who today openly serve the Ministry of Information and Security (MOIS) of the Iranian regime.
For a better understanding of the issues raised in this article, we need to have a brief look at the regime’s history and origin.
The clerical regime’s leadership from Khomeini to Khamenei had decided that the survival of their regime depended on the physical annihilation of the PMOI (MEK) members and their supporters. To make this a reality the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of the mullahs decided to create an “Anti- Hypocrisy Division”(the derogatory name used by the regime to describe its main opposition) and has steadily advanced this policy for the past 30 years inside and out of Iran.
The regime adopted a two-pronged approach to eradicating the MEK. The mullahs carried out the arrests, imprisonments, torture, and execution of MEK supporters inside Iran. Simultaneously, they embarked on an extensive propaganda campaign to demonize the group through the dissemination of fake news and false allegations abroad.
FALSE ALLEGATIONS AGAINST MEK
False allegations made against the MEK included tales of the imprisonment and torture of members who left the group, compulsory divorce of members and the disintegration of the family unit, restricted communication with the outside world, and the existence of a financial-political association with Saddam Hussein.
Alongside these serious and malicious accusations, the MOIS carried out assassinations of key figures in the Iranian resistance group. It killed Prof. Kazem Rajavi, Mohammad Hossein Naghdi, Zahra Rajabi. The MOIS also attempted to kidnap many other activists connected to the MEK.
Those that followed the events during the political phase (1980-1981) will remember Khomeini’s statements about the MEK. Khomeini used to say that “PMOI (MEK) members are worse than infidels,” and he even referred to MEK as the “enemies fifth column” during the destructive Iran-Iraq war.
False and negative allegations about the MEK that have been published on international media outlets like Der Spiegel, started with the inception of this regime and the roots of the allegations can be traced to the intelligence and security apparatus within the Iranian government. The MOIS uses paid agents under the guise of ex-MEK members, former political prisoners, activists, researchers, authors, and journalists to spread the falsehoods and allegations as part of a large-scale disinformation campaign.
DER SPIEGEL’S “BAD JOURNALISM”
In the Der Spiegel article, we see the same pattern of reporting visible in other regime hit pieces.
The Der Spiegel article that was scheduled to be published on November 24, 2018, was delayed, without explanation for around three months. Its final publishing date coincided with the Warsaw conference. The hit piece was likely designed to overshadow the political victory of the resistance and help the Mullahs regime in the international arena.
A Persian translation of Gholamreza Shekari’s interview (An agent of MOIS), which was included in the final Der Spiegel article, was posted on a Ministry of Intelligence website on November 24, long before the full text was published on the Der Spiegel site, indicating that there had been an extensive collaboration between the MOIS and Der Speigel’s writers and “journalists”.
Journalism is responsible for informing society. The facts they report help shape public opinion. Therefore, journalists have the moral obligation to work within a strict ethical framework. Journalism should question and criticize where appropriate. It should challenge inaccuracy wherever it finds it and stands committed to the pursuit of truth. Journalists have the obligation, at least in the fact-finding stage of investigations, to observe neutrality and remain objective until the facts are revealed. This is one of the main criteria of the ethics of journalism.
.@STRUANSTEVENSON This kind of horrible #FakeNews an attempt to blacking and demonize the #MEK simply playing to the hands of the mullahs.#Spiegel #Spiegel_FakeNews @USAdarFarsi @focus_Magazin @derSpiegel pic.twitter.com/Jpj63gfCGJ
— Iran Freedom (@4FreedominIran) March 5, 2019
According to evidence and photographs available, the author of the Der Spiegel article, Ms. Louisa Homerich, studied in Iran for two years and spend a significant amount of time in the country carrying out research for the piece. It is not possible for a foreign citizen to spend so much time in Iran without the direct coordination and approval of the regime intelligence agencies. During her stay in Iran, she enjoyed the hospitality of the revolutionary guards and was allowed to accompany the Women Basseij forces on a military maneuver called “Women on Path of Light”. She last visited Iran in January 2018.
Her extended stay in Iran, including her university studies, and close ties to the political, military and security apparatus in the country have raised serious questions over her “impartiality” and the agenda behind her reporting on the Iranian opposition.
Upon becoming aware of the intentions Ms. Homerich and the upcoming Der Spiegel article, the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the umbrella organization of the MEK, in Germany tried to contact the magazine on several occasions to invite them to Ashraf 3 in Albania. The NCRI invited Der Spiegel to send reporters to speak to the residents in person and continue their fact-finding endeavor. However, the NCRI’s calls remained unanswered.
Instead of interviewing current members of the MEK, Der Spiegel drew conclusions based solely on the testimony of individuals who have actively sought to vilify the Iranian opposition at the behest of the mullahs for years. As expected, they cited false information and fake documents that contradict publicly available court documents. The end result is an article lacking a shred of truth or credibility.
In the article, a person named Mostafa Mohammadi is referred to as a witness. He is another known MOIS operative and regime insider. He has been claiming for years that his 39-year-old daughter, Somayeh Mohammadi, is being held captive by the MEK! Mostafa Mohammadi filed complaints in Canadian, Iraqi, and Albanian courts seeking the “release” of his daughter from “the clutches of Rajavi’s cult”. All three courts ruled that the claims were baseless and rejected his complaint.
Another person referred to as a witness in this article is Gholamreza Shekari, who claims he was a member of PMOI/MEK for 27 years and was jailed and tortured by the group 24 years ago. He claims the group brainwashed him and that is why he remained with the organization after the torture took place! Mr. Shekari admits that he kept receiving monthly financial help from MEK for as long as he had not visited the regime’s embassy. The financial help was discontinued after his ties to the regime were revealed. He is now an active intelligence operative advancing the vilifying policies of the regime against the MEK. His interview with Der Spiegel appeared in several MOIS websites three months prior to Der Spiegel published its article!
In the end, it should be noted that the author of the article “Prisoners of the Riot”, in repeating the persistent falsehoods and lies of the Mullahs regime’s security apparatus served to further the Iranian regime’s propaganda objectives. It violated the core principles of journalism and sought to demonize a pro-democracy group fighting for the fall of the tyrannical religious fascism of the mullahs.