Berlin paper backs Stasi investigation of staff

After two top journalists at the Berliner Zeitung admitted they were former East German secret police (Stasi) informants earlier this week, the daily newspaper announced on Wednesday that the overwhelming majority of editorial staff voted to access their official records at the government's archive.

Berlin paper backs Stasi investigation of staff
The Stasi archive (BSTU) in Berlin. Photo: DPA

According to Berliner Zeitung editorial committee spokesperson, Thomas Rogalla, in the paper’s Wednesday edition, 85 employees voted in favour of the action, while two staff members rejected the idea, and two others chose not to vote in the secret ballot.

The Berliner Zeitung chose this route because Stasi record laws would prevent background checks on all employees, Rogalla said. The government archive in charge of the records of the East German Ministry for State Security makes them available to the public and institutions under stringent legal regulations.

On Monday, the paper’s 50-year-old political editor admitted to having been a Stasi informant for a decade, from the time he was 18 until East Germany collapsed in 1989. The unnamed employee apologized to his colleagues. His admission came after another of the paper’s section editors, Thomas Leinkauf, was outed on Saturday as a Stasi informant for two years as a student in the 1970s under the alias “Gregor.” Leinkauf had not tried to conceal his Stasi involvement, though, said Editor in Chief of the left-leaning paper, Josef Depenbrock.

Depenbrock announced on Monday that the paper would undergo an external, independent analysis of its journalistic work after the two employees admitted to Stasi involvement. “We want to insure that we don’t lose our journalistic integrity,” he told news service DPA.

Though it’s tragic on a personal level, Depenbrock added, the paper can’t overlook Stasi connections. Both journalists have been suspended from their duties.