Report: Berlin to probe Russia propaganda efforts in Germany

AP News
|
Posted: Feb 19, 2016 10:51 AM

BERLIN (AP) — The German government has asked its intelligence agencies to investigate whether Russia is conducting a propaganda campaign in Germany, according to media reports Friday.

Daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung and public broadcasters WDR and NDR reported that the government believes Russian media are being used to spread disinformation and destabilize Germany.

Government spokeswoman Christiane Wirtz declined to confirm the report, saying intelligence matters are never commented on.

But Wirtz said Germany sees "tendentious" reporting in some Russian media on Ukraine and the migrant crisis. She cited Russian media reports of the alleged rape of a teenage girl by migrants that German police later said never happened.

"We are certainly closely watching the increased activity of Russian media, and in certain areas one can definitely see tendentious reporting," Wirtz told reporters in Berlin.

Russian media seized on the alleged rape of a 13-year-old German-Russian girl in Berlin last month, accusing German authorities of trying to cover up the incident.

The girl was reported missing Jan. 11 and reappeared after about 30 hours. Online rumors ensued that she had been kidnapped by a group of foreign-looking men and raped, but German police said they found no evidence of either kidnapping or rape.

Still, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov asserted last month that the girl's disappearance "was hushed up for a long time for some reason" and added she didn't disappear "voluntarily."

Wirtz said there was no evidence that Russian media had broken any laws in Germany and free speech remains protected by the constitution.

Ties between Berlin and Moscow have taken a dive since Russia backed a separatist movement in eastern Ukraine.

The cooldown in relations has also affected trade between the two countries. The value of German exports to Russia fell by over 25 percent last year to 21 billion euros ($23.3 billion), according to a German industry group.