The editor-in-chief of Bild, Europe’s largest newspaper and an influential force in German politics and society, has taken his leave while a law firm investigates the charges against him. The information comes from the publisher who owns the newspaper.
Julian Reichelt, the publisher in question, denies the fault accusations, according to Axel Springer, editor-in-chief of Bild. The company said it had no “clear evidence” of fault, but hired Freshfields to investigate the charges, without specifying what they are.
The charges were first reported by Spiegel magazine, which cited half a dozen employees who had worked for Bild and denounced Reichelt for coercion. Spiegel did not identify the professionals. The magazine said it accused Reichelt of abusing his position of authority and creating a hostile work environment, but gave no further details.
“To ensure that the investigative process can be conducted without interruption and that the editorial team can work without major obstacles,” said Springer, Reichelt “asked Axel Springer’s board to allow it to perform his duties until the charges are cleared “.
Alexandra Würzbach, editor-in-chief of the Sunday edition of Bild, will take on the role of Reichelt on an interim basis, the company said.
The MeToo movement has hit Europe with much less force than the United States. There are relatively rare cases of powerful men in Europe who have been exposed by allegations of misconduct against women.
Germany and most European countries protect the identities of defendants in court proceedings, making it difficult for the media to report cases of harassment.
In many cases, the courts have taken a stand against the accusers. In 2019, a French court ordered the leader of the French equivalent of the MeToo movement to pay damages to a former television executive she accused of harassing her in a humiliating and obscene manner.
With a circulation of 1.2 million printed copies, Bild is Europe’s largest newspaper, but like most publications it has faced a huge drop in print circulation. In 2011, the print journal sold an average of 2.8 million copies, according to the Bild website, and in 1965 the daily circulation was 4 million.
With its colorful arts and emphasis on scandals, celebrities and sports, Bild (the name means “image”) is Germany’s popular daily. Its readers are mostly men. Until 2012, the newspaper had a photo of a topless woman on the front page. The half-naked “Bild Girls” images are still part of the online version.
Unlike the British right-wing tabloids, Bild is relatively non-partisan, but he is nonetheless opinionated and follows an aggressive tabloid style, despite being published in a standard format. Because of its reach, Bild is often the vehicle used by prominent politicians to communicate with voters, through exclusive interviews or scoops.
A former war correspondent who became editor-in-chief of Bild in 2017, Reichelt, 40, has also written numerous opinion pieces. He had recently criticized what he described as mismanagement of the pandemic crisis by the German government. This month, he criticized authorities for fining people who ran without wearing masks, while federal and state officials disrupted vaccine distribution.
Axel Springer, who publishes Bild, is one of Europe’s largest media companies. She is also the owner of the German daily Welt, the Business Insider news site and Politico Europe. KKR, a private equity firm, owns 36% of Springer’s shares and occupies three of the nine seats on the company’s supervisory board. Friede Springer, widow of founder Axel Springer, is still a major shareholder and a member of the board of directors.
Springer said in a statement on Saturday (13) that the investigation into Reichelt will include “an assessment of the credibility and integrity of all parties involved”.
“The prejudices based on rumors are unacceptable for the corporate culture of Axel Springer,” he added.