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Hamburg court rules against misinformation targeting the MEK

A Hamburg Court Rules Against Der Spiegel in Blow to Regime’s Misinformation Campaign

Hamburg court rules against misinformation targeting the MEK

The court in Hamburg rules against the spread of false information against MEK, Iran’s main opposition.

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.

Legal Ramifications

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.

Staff writer

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Claas Relotius,Disinformation by MOIS,Disinformation Campaign,Iran Diplomat Terrorist,MEK,Mujahedin-e Khalq,National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI),NCRI,PMOI,Reza Aaron Merat,Spiegel,The Guardian

Claas Relotius, Spiegel's recently sacked writer

The Western Media Is in the Midst of an Integrity Crisis

Claas Relotius, Spiegel's recently sacked writer

Claas Relotius, an editor of Der Spiegel Magazine in Germany that had been providing false and fabricated news in his articles in the Spiegel

In what has been called the “biggest fraud scandal in journalism since the Hitler diaries”, Claas Relotius, an editor of Der Spiegel Magazine in Germany, has been stripped of his journalism awards by CNN and other outlets.

During his seven-year career at Der Spiegel, Relotius published lies in his stories, often not bothering to visit and interview the places and subjects he wrote about. His features were at times, pure fabrication, and the case has rocked European journalism to its foundations.

A Systematic Campaign of Lies

Responding to this scandal, the International Committee in Search of Justice (ISJ) published its own statement. While it unequivocally and forcefully condemned Relotius’ behavior, it posed the striking question: how does his conduct differ from other deliberate international misinformation campaigns?

Relotius pedaled falsehoods and invented feature stories, but he is far from the only international journalist doing so at this moment. In recent months and years, The Guardian, The Independent, Channel 4 News, and Al Jazeera have also published pieces based on information and sources from within the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence (MOIS), which is viciously hostile to opposition groups like the People’s Mujahedin Organisation of Iran (MEK).

Each article has spouted the same falsehoods and lies that originated through the Iranian propaganda and state-run media networks. These “journalists”, like Relotius, publish this information as though it is fact, without fact-checking or investigating the merit of their sources.

Former Vice-President of the European Parliament: The Guardian has Stabbed the Free Press in the Back

Most recently, Arron Reza Merat published a hit piece against the MEK in the British newspaper, The Guardian. He repeated regime accusations of murder and kidnap, often levied at the group, all of which have been extensively disproved in the public sphere.

The Committee of Anglo-Iranian Lawyers Issue a Statement on the Guardian’s MEK Hit Piece

Merat’s sources were MOIS affiliates who introduced themselves as former MEK members.

In Contrast to the International Community

One sign that Merat’s piece failed to paint an accurate picture of the situation in Albania is that a month after the piece was published, the Albanian government expelled the Iranian diplomats working out of the regime’s embassy in Tirana for conspiring against the MEK.

Following their expulsion, US president Donal Trump expressed his gratitude to the Albanian government for its “steadfast efforts to stand up to Iran and to counter its destabilizing activities and efforts to silence dissidents around the globe”.

Albania’s Decision to Expel Regime Diplomats is Welcomed by the Trump Administration

Given the increasing pressure the clerical regime faces in Iran through MEK-organised protests and resistance group activities, the regime is particularly eager to find international journalists willing to publish hit pieces against the opposition group.

The ISJ statement, penned by Alejo Vidal-Quadras, the former Vice-President of the European Parliament, concluded that “it’s time to break the silence vis-à-vis the Iranian regime’s malign influence in the Western press”. He added, “the media outlets responsible for disseminating the Iran articles based on distorted facts and dishonest sources seem unwilling to do so. Shame on them.”

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