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Bild appoints ombudsman to deal with fake news complaints

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Bild appoints ombudsman to deal with fake news complaints
Photo: DPA
15:48 CET+01:00
The Bild newspaper has established the position of an "independent" ombudsman to respond to any complaints or questions their readers may have about facts and sources used in their articles.

The appointment, announced on Wednesday, comes after Bild was widely criticized earlier in February for "making up" a story about mass sexual assaults committed by migrants in Frankfurt on New Year's Eve.

After a string of accusations of "fake-news", Bild is trying to rebrand itself as the most "trustworthy medium in Germany," according to an interview with Editor Julian Reichelt.

The new ombudsman, 75 year-old Ernst Elitz, was previously director of Deutschlandradio, and now takes up this permanent position at the newspaper. His new job is to investigate any complaints about facts, stories, or sources that the Bild newspaper prints.

Bild says that Elitz will act independently from the paper, an apparent move to rebuild trust after several high-profile articles were proved to be highly misleading.

Julian Reichelt took to the internet to answer readers' questions, and to dispel allegations about Bild's "fake-news" problem. He clarified what he thought fake-news was, saying that it was "intentionally or willingly making something up to further an agenda, which Bild doesn't do. A journalistic mistake is not fake-news."

In February it was revealed that Bild had printed a story which was completely made up about mass sexual assaults by refugees in Frankfurt. Prosecutors are now also investigating two people believed to have fabricated the events.

The Bild article, which has now been deleted, described the men as a "rioting sex mob", and speculated that they had come from the refugee home in central Hesse.

Bild interviewed a chef in Frankfurt who said that they caused havoc in his restaurant, and sexually assaulted women. A woman then told the newspaper that "they grabbed me under my skirt, between my legs, and on my breast – everywhere."

Following the article police said that "one of the alleged victims was not even in Frankfurt at the time the allegations are said to have taken place."

Reichelt admitted in an interview with Tagesspiegel on February 16th that "the mistakes in the "sex-mob" story were clear, and they were distressing because they led our readers in a wrong, even perhaps a non-existent direction."

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