During an April 2022 update of the EpochTimes.de Nutrition Label, NewsGuard contacted the site about its coverage of the war in Ukraine. The site sent comments to include in the Nutrition Label and a representative from EpochTime’s legal department asked for the entire statement to be published. NewsGuard’s email to the site and their full answer can be found below.
(Note: This letter was originally written in German. NewsGuard’s team translated it into English. The German version can be found here.)
Email from Elena Bernard
April 11, 2022
Dear Sir or Madam,
On behalf of NewsGuard, I am currently updating our media profile on EpochTimes.de. We recently noticed several articles that quote Russian officials with false statements about an alleged genocide against the Russian minority in eastern Ukraine, without distancing themselves from these statements. I am sharing two examples below for your comment:
If you provide me with your comments by the end of this week, we can include them in the media profile before the update is published.
For more information about NewsGuard, please visit www.newsguardtech.com/de, as well as our full set of criteria and ownership information. Among others, Deutschlandfunk, Süddeutsche Zeitung and Neue Zürcher Zeitung have reported on our project. You can find the articles in our media reports.
Email from Alexander Zwieschowski, LL.M.
Epoch Times Europe GmbH
April 14, 2022
Dear Ms. Bernard,
The two articles you refer to are exclusively agency reports that we have summarized and adopted the wording you mentioned. As you know, this is a common practice in everyday media life, since agency reports are so-called privileged sources.
Incidentally, you can also see the same wording in other media that used the same agency reports. As a support for your research work, you can see it here, for example:
1. regarding our article https://www.epochtimes.de/politik/ausland/lawrow-spricht-ukrainischer-regierung-demokratische-legitimation-ab-a3734557.html
you can find the same wording e.g. on ZDF, Tagesspiegel or Zeit:
2. regarding our article https://www.epochtimes.de/politik/ausland/putin-konflikt-in-der-ostukraine-aehnelt-einem-voelkermord-2-a3662889.html
you will find the same wording e.g. on MDR
or also in the agency report on RND
Also in view of the fact that the reports and wordings are mere agency reports, the question arises whether you have made the same request to the press agencies named in our articles as well as to other media (e.g. the above links ZDF, MDR, ZEIT). We doubt this with ignorance and must first assume that a purposeful discrediting is intended here.
In addition, we ask you to note that a distancing in a pure reporting in the form of neutral reproduction of news, or in this case of statements by public figures, due to lack of media proximity is generally not necessary, as you can also see from the original agency reports, whose phrasing we have merely adopted.
Obviously the impression exists about Newsguard that hasty judgments are drawn and not at all factually but rather ideologically derived. This can be seen par excellence in the way Newsguard works with the example of the “Lab Leak”, with which the company and the employees concerned have independently branded themselves. Obviously, under the false guise of an objective evaluation of media, a subjective-ideological prejudgement was in fact carried out, the result of which corresponds more to a defamation campaign than to any objective rating and indisputably violates journalistic principles.
For this reason, we in the Legal Department are entrusted with keeping a special eye on the work of Newsguard. Here, there are encroachments on competition law that not only give rise to claims under civil law, but in cases such as the “Lab Leak” – despite Newsguard’s apology (https://www.newsguardtech.com/de/special-reports/coronavirus-misinformation-tracking-center/) – give rise to the assumption of criminal defamation pursuant to § 187 et seq. of the German Criminal Code (StGB) with particular severity due to the public dissemination.
In this respect, Epoch Times Deutschland reserves the right, on the one hand, to assert legal claims against both the company and the authors as authors on the basis of damage to reputation and, on the other hand, to file a criminal complaint with the responsible public prosecutor’s office on the basis of the massive initial suspicion of defamation.
Thus I hereby request you already now make available immediately any publications to do with your inquiry of 11.04.2022.
Finally, we would like to point out that you may only quote complete passages from this response letter and not out of context. A link to the complete response letter is suggested due to Newsguard’s serious misconduct in the past.
Email from Marie Richter
NewsGuard Managing Editor, Germany
May 5, 2022
Dear Mr. Zwieschowski,
Thank you very much for your response. We have published the full version of your response alongside the Nutrition Label via a link at the bottom of the analysis, together with our replies to you as well. Attached to this email, I’m sending you our full, published Nutrition Label analysis as promised.
As for your questions, in our analyses, we do consider articles that cite officials or other persons. In the case that these cited statements include false or misleading statements, we look for some caveat by the site — meaning, in this case, that statements made by Russian officials are not left unchallenged or without the necessary context.
We’ve reviewed the articles you’ve shared with us. As per our policy, we do not comment on our analyses of other websites to other media outlets. You can read about how we made the assessments in our Nutrition Labels. However, you’ll notice that in the case of the first article that we are discussing (https://www.epochtimes.de/politik/ausland/lawrow-spricht-ukrainischer-regierung-demokratische-legitimation-ab-a3734557.html), although it is true that the other articles you sent are based on the same agency reports, they distance themselves and provide context to the cited statements: Tagesspiegel explicitly calls the statement a “false allegation,” Zeit Online speaks of “Russian propaganda,” and ZDF uses the word “alleged” several times and also presents additional context. We found no such caveats in the article on EpochTimes.de.