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Director of 'Bild', Germany's largest newspaper, fired after sexual harassment investigation

The German media group Axel Springer fired this Monday “with immediate effect” the director of the newspaper Bild , Julian Reichelt, after the revelations published in German media and, especially, in The New York Times , about a possible case of sexual harassment and inappropriate relationships in the writing of this tabloid newspaper, the most widely read in the country.

In a press release, the company accuses him of not having separated “the private from the professional” and of having lied to the board of directors. The first accusations against Reichelt were known months ago, but Axel Springer opened an investigation and concluded that there was no reason to remove him from his post. Now, a day after The New York Times published details about his relationship with an intern, the company has decided to fire him.

In March The German weekly Der Spiegel reported that the editor of Bild was investigating various internal complaints about Reichelt’s behavior with female workers. The director, 41 years old and who had been in the position since 2017, left a leave of absence for a few days but returned after knowing the result of an internal investigation, in which the Freshfields law firm participated, which concluded that he had not violated any rule although he did determine that he had “mixed his personal and professional life.”

Axel Springer assures this Monday that ” in the context of a recent media investigation, the company has learned of new indications about the current behavior of Julian Reichelt ”. In the note, he assures that during the investigation carried out in March “there were never complaints of sexual harassment or sexual assault” but “complaints of love affairs with employees of Bild and indications of abuse of power in this context ”. The company assures that it came to the conclusion that the director “made mistakes, but not unforgivable mistakes. Those who would have justified an immediate dismissal could not be proven and Julian Reichelt denied them. ”

The New York Times yesterday published details of the internal investigation from last spring. For example, he relates that in 2016, when he was 36 years old, Reichelt started a relationship with an employee of 25. “If they find out that I have an affair with a fellow, they will kick me out,” he told the woman in November of that year, as she declared during the investigation. Shortly after, he offered her a prominent position in the newsroom for which she felt she was not prepared, the US newspaper recounted from the transcripts of the statements. “That’s how it always works in Bild,” the woman told the researchers. “Whoever sleeps with the boss gets a better job.”

Der Spiegel referred in March to the “Riechelt system”, which consisted of that the director invited the scholars to dinner via Instagram. Without offering details, he said that some female employees were suddenly promoted to prominent positions and were also quickly falling out of favor. The publication described Reichelt’s relationship with the journalists as “an open secret” and noted that the women demanded anonymity to tell their experience for fear of the consequences. “Reichelt has created a culture of fear in the newsroom that now makes it difficult to clarify cases,” wrote the journalists of Der Spiegel that they uncovered the story . They headlined the report “Fuck, promote, fire” .

Axel Springer, also editor of the newspaper Die Welt and who recently bought the US media Business Insider and Politico , explains in the press release that the company did not have a regulation on relations between employees. In general, German companies do not have this type of regulation. Following the spring investigation, the board of directors has decided “that in the future there should be an obligation to transparently disclose personal relationships in the workplace that could trigger a conflict of interest,” he says.

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