Disinformation in the German media: Reitschuster
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Disinformation in the German media: Reitschuster

28 November 2022
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The German site Reitschuster is the blog of journalist Boris Reitschuster. Previously, for 16 years, he was a correspondent for Focus magazine in Moscow and wrote several books about Russia. Reitschuster calls himself a critical journalist and claims that he spreads information on his website that reputable media would suppress. However, since 2019, under the guise of controversy surrounding the appropriateness of coronavirus restrictions, Reitschuster has been spreading conspiracy theories and hoaxes about the coronavirus and vaccines that do not stand up to factchecking.

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. 

Reitschuster is most active in spreading misinformation about COVID-19, including fakes that testing for COVID-19 is ineffective because PCR tests give false results and that wearing masks increases mortality or suppresses the immune system.

Reitschuster also often publishes so-called “guest posts” — materials by other journalists or readers of the site. Among them, there are also cases of outright manipulation and fake news. For example, in one such article, it is said that the requirement to wear a mask is actually a psychological technique to influence the population in order to make it “more docile”.

Reitschuster publishes many false reports about coronavirus vaccines. For example, false claims that natural infection provides better protection against COVID-19 than a vaccine. Or that vaccinations lead to more and more terrible side effects, including a great number of myocarditis. In doing so, Reitschuster cites unverified data, such as VAERS, an open vaccine adverse event reporting system, where data can be entered by anyone and is not verified.

Boris Reitschuster’s website also often promotes a conspiracy narrative, as if the German authorities are hiding the true “consequences of vaccination”. On October 15, 2022, Reitschuster published a hoax that Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach wants to count all deaths from heart attacks after contracting COVID-19 as “coronavirus deaths.” The author writes that Lauterbach seeks to pass off “vaccination effects”—alleged deaths from vaccination—as deaths from COVID-19.

However, this is fake: Lauterbach actually explained (his full speech is available on YouTube) that the statistics of deaths due to COVID-19 are incomplete because they do not count deaths from heart attacks after the infection, which can happen later. Lauterbach did not call for changing the way statistics are kept at all, let alone counting all heart attack deaths as deaths due to COVID-19.

Reitschuster, citing anonymous sources, publishes conspiracy theories that the authorities are artificially inflating the statistics of patients with COVID-19, forcing doctors to falsify the death certificates of patients who died of other diseases. Clinics allegedly receive a commission for this. Reitschuster does not provide any evidence for this. This publication has already been refuted by independent fact-checkers from Correctiv and dpa.

After the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, factcheckers from a number of European countries noted that platforms that were previously actively used to spread disinformation about COVID-19 were repurposed to spread Russian disinformation. However, this trend does not apply to everyone: Reitschuster condemns Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and actively criticizes the German government for its weak support for Ukraine. But his audience gathered on anti-Covid conspiracy theory, did not support this position. German fact-checkers from Correctiv found that Reitschuster had lost more than 25,000 followers on his Telegram channel (which had nearly 320,000 users) as of February 24.

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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