German journalist accused of being paid to publish pro-Putin books

German journalist accused of being paid to publish pro-Putin books
German journalist accused of being paid to publish pro-Putin books

Deutsche Wellei Deutsche Welle

14/11/2023 – 22:43

Hubert Seipel would have received at least 600 thousand euros from an oligarch linked to the Kremlin, target of international sanctions, for reports that aimed to convey a positive image of the Russian leader to the West. German journalist Hubert Seipel, considered one of the greatest German experts on topics related to Russia, would have received at least 600 thousand euros (R$ 3.1 million) in payments from companies linked to the Kremlin, according to reports published this Tuesday (14/11) by the German public broadcaster ZDF, the magazine Der Spiegel and the newspaper British The Guardian.

The accusations against Seipel are among the revelations made this Tuesday by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) together with the German portal Paper Trail Media, which had access to 3.6 million confidential documents from offshore financial services companies based in Cyprus.

According to the reports, Seipel, who wrote books and produced documentaries for the German broadcaster NDR about Russia and interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin, would have had part of his work financed by a Cypriot company linked to Russian oligarch Alexei Mordashov.

The German was reportedly paid in cash to write two books about Putin’s rise to power.

The case is one of the first to associate a highly influential Western journalist with payments that can be seen as initiatives by pro-Putin actors to ensure favorable coverage for the Russian leader in the international press.

Seipel is one of the few journalists outside Russia to maintain direct and regular contact with Putin. He himself claims to have met the Russian president almost 100 times.

Oligarch Mordashov, close to Putin, owns the Severstal steel company. He became the target of sanctions imposed by the United States, European Union (EU) and United Kingdom following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The journalist acknowledged having received payments from accounts associated with Mordashov, but did not confirm the amount received. However, the documents revealed by ICIJ contain details of payments totaling 600 thousand euros.

Seipel stated that the financial support received through Mordashov was “solely related to the book projects.” He assures that he maintained an impartial stance. “I always establish clear legal limits that guarantee my independence,” he said, quoted by The Guardian.

The documents and Seipel’s own account suggest that the payments were associated with the biography he wrote in 2015 entitled Putin: Insider Visions of Power, and his 2021 work Putin’s Power: Why Europe Needs Russia. Both books were originally written in German.

German public broadcaster NDR said on Tuesday it was considering taking legal action against Seipel. “We suspect that we – and therefore our public – have been purposefully misled,” said NDR President Joachim Knuth.

He said that the broadcaster sees “a relevant conflict of interest” that calls into question Seipel’s journalistic independence. The journalist produced a documentary about Putin for the channel in 2012, in addition to recording an exclusive interview with the Russian leader two years later.

rc (AFP, ots)

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