German newspaper fires journalist for ‘love Russia’ book

Back in 2018, Juergen Helfricht co-authored the publication without informing his employer, the tabloid BILD

Germany’s BILD newspaper has sacked its reporter Juergen Helfricht after it emerged that he’d co-authored a book titled ‘To learn to love Russia’ in 2018 without informing the editors about the project. The media outlet explained that the book “exalts” the Kremlin, and represents a “worldview” which “has no place” in Bild. 

Last month, German media outlet NDR reported that it was considering launching legal action against a documentary filmmaker it had partnered with, after it came to light that the man had allegedly received money from a Russian businessman on at least two occasions.  

In a statement published on Friday, BILD said that its editorial team “decided on Tuesday to dismiss Dresden chief reporter Juergen Helfricht with immediate effect.” The reason for the decision was Helfricht’s “participation in a book project, which the editorial team was not informed of, and which it would never have approved,” the media outlet insisted.

At the center of the story is a book titled ‘To learn to love Russia,’ written by former Dresden Opera Ball chief Hans-Joachim Frey, and co-authored by Helfricht. The German edition saw the light of day in 2018 and the Russian one three years later. 

The preface to the Russian-language version was penned by President Vladimir Putin, and the one to the German language book by then Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky. The official, among other things, denounced the “fallacious [and] superficial” notions of Russia that foreigners tend to have. Medinsky also said that these misconceptions are often used for “propaganda purposes.” 

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According to BILD, the book carries multiple “exalting perceptions of the Kremlin.”

“Such a world view… has no place in a publication like BILD,” the statement concluded.  

In a separate case last month, media outlet NDR reported that it had been confronted with allegations that documentary filmmaker Hubert Seipel, who it had partnered with, had received Russian money.

Seipel, who produced such films as ‘I, Putin: A Portrait,’ (2012), as well as interviews with the Russian president and US whistleblower Edward Snowden two years later, “admitted to NDR that he had received money from the Russian entrepreneur Alexey Mordashov in the form of two ‘sponsorship contracts’ in 2013 and 2018” for two book projects.

The German broadcaster noted that the filmmaker had failed to inform NRD of these contracts – something it sees as a “significant conflict of interest that challenges Seipel’s journalistic independence.” 

Late last month, President Putin said that “Russophobia… has become almost the official ideology of the Western ruling elites,” adding that it is directed not only at ethnic Russians, but also at all the other peoples inhabiting the country.

The Russian head of state went on to claim that the West wants to dismember Russia by attempting to sow discord among its population.

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