The German media Deutschland-Kurier positions itself as an alternative media that conveys “independent and unconventional” opinions silenced by the mainstream media. Is it really so? VoxCheck analyzed its publications for 2021-2022, with a special focus on materials about Ukraine. Factcheck has shown that under the guise of “alternativeness”, the Deutschland-Kurier promotes Russian disinformation, fakes about COVID-19 and vaccination against it, and manipulative materials about climate change.
This article was prepared by the fact-checking organization VoxCheck, in collaboration with the European University Institute, to debunk false claims in the German media and deliver fact-checks to a broad range of audiences.
Close connection with the Kremlin’s loyal friend in Germany
It is noteworthy that Deutschland-Kurier systematically disseminates statements by pro-Russian members of the Bundestag aimed at provoking protest sentiments against the provision of aid to Ukraine. Most of the reports refer to members of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, a right-wing populist group that promotes the lifting of sanctions on Russia. In 2019, Der Spiegel, in partnership with a number of other media outlets, published an analysis of emails and documents confirming AfD’s cooperation with the Kremlin. Party representatives were supposed to promote the interests of the Kremlin in European institutions, as well as legitimize the Russian occupation of the Ukrainian Donbas and Crimea, and therefore regularly visited these regions.
In 2017, independent fact-checkers Correctiv reported on Deutschland-Kurier’s ties to the AfD. Factcheckers also pointed to the low level of factual reporting: Deutschland-Kurier cited false figures and facts as arguments and did not indicate the source of information.
Russian narratives about Ukraine
Deutschland-Kurier publishes numerous direct calls to stop supplying arms to Ukraine and not to introduce sanctions against Russia. For example, the statements of AfD member of the Bundestag, Hannes Gnauck, that Germany has become a “party to the war” in Ukraine because it supplies the country with weapons. Or the quotes by AfD member of the European Parliament Gunnar Beck that Ukraine is a “failed state” (a common cliché of Russian propaganda), so it is impossible to allocate funds to help it resist Russian aggression. VoxCheck has previously debunked Beck’s fake claim that there is no evidence of Russian funding of terrorism.
In addition, the Deutschland-Kurier has published articles calling for an end to benefits for Ukrainian refugees with manipulative claims that German citizens receive less help from their own government than Ukrainians who “never paid taxes to the country.” Such statements are also intended to cause dissatisfaction among the population of European countries with the fact that their authorities support Ukraine.
Deutschland-Kurier also spreads fakes consonant to Russian propaganda narratives. For example, fake stories about tattoos in the form of a swastika and SS runes on the soldiers of the Azov regiment. Similar fakes are regularly distributed by the Russian media in order to create the appearance of mass support for the ideology of Nazism in Ukraine.
VoxCheck has previously refuted the most common Russian disinformation narratives about Nazism in Ukraine.
Deutschland-Kurier also distributes discrediting materials about the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelenskyi. In one of the publications, it is said that Zelensky “imposes himself as a hero president” and allegedly transfers millions from the sources of oligarchs to his offshore accounts in the Caribbean, and these “facts” are silenced by Russophobes. In another article, Volodymyr Zelensky is called a “television comedian” who allegedly got rich at the expense of oligarchs.
In July, the Defence Intelligence of Ukraine reported that Russia had conducted another disinformation campaign in Germany before the start of a large-scale invasion. Then the journalists of Deutschland-Kurier received materials captured by the Russians in Mariupol, which allegedly proved that Ukrainian special services were spying on OSCE employees in Donbas.
Fakes about coronavirus and climate change
In addition to manipulative and fake materials about Ukraine, Deutschland-Kurier distributes skeptical materials about the danger of the coronavirus and the need for coronavirus restrictions, in particular accusing the German government of fueling “hysteria” regarding the coronavirus. The media also spread fakes about the dangerous side effects of vaccines against COVID-19 and was trying to convince that the harms of vaccination far outweighed the benefits. The publication calls the vaccinations themselves “medical experiments on humans”, arguing this with false statements as if coronavirus vaccines were not tested on humans.
Deutschland-Kurier also promotes conspiracy theories about climate change, denying the problem’s existence. For example, a 2021 article says that heat waves in Canada and the US and tornadoes in the Czech Republic are not actually evidences of the existence of a climate change problem but only the “climate hysteria” of the Green Party. Сalls to combat climate change media describes as “climate intimidation” and political PR of certain parties to discredit the idea of combating climate change as such.
The authors do not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have no relevant affiliations