Award-winning journalist Claas Relotius who worked for news magazine Der Spiegel had “made up stories and invented protagonists” in 14 out of 60 published articles. Relotius, 33, resigned after he admitted to the fraud.
The reported won numerous awards for his “investigative journalism” – including CNN’s Journalist of the Year award in 2014, The Guardian reported. Relotius has also worked for several other news outlets, including Germany’s taz, Welt and the Frankfurter Allgemeine’s Sunday edition.
Earlier this month, Relotius won Germany’s Reporterpreis for his story about a Syrian boy, but it has emerged that all of his sources were fake and his report was completely fabricated.
A fellow journalist, Juan Moreno, who had worked with him on a story at the US-Mexican border became suspicions when he noticed some peculiar details in Relotius’ reports.
Moreno then tracked down two alleged sources quoted extensively by Relotius in the article, which was published in November. Both confirmed that they had never met the German reporter.
Moreno, who has worked for the magazine since 2007, risked his own job when he shared his suspicions. “For three to four weeks Moreno went through hell because colleagues and those senior to him did not want to believe his accusations at first,” his employer admitted.
For several weeks, the magazine said, Relotius continued lying so skillfully about his fake stories, that he was even considered to be the victim of a cunning plot by Moreno.
Other fraudulent stories included one about a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo Bay, and one about the American football star Colin Kaepernick. Relotius also lied about a sign that allegedly read “Mexicans keep out” at the US-mexican border, a follow-up investigation found.
The news magazine that Relotius worked for, admitted to the fraud expressing their “shock” at the discovery. Der Spiegel has an online readership of over 6.5 million and sells around 725 000 print copies per month.
They apologised for their reporter’s “fraudulent quotes, made-up personal details or invented scenes at fictitious places” and added that he had committed journalistic fraud “on a grand scale,” describing the fake news as “a low point in Spiegel’s 70-year history”.
According to Relotius he is “sick” and he “needs to get help”.