One of Russia’s leading television channels has used a fake video to prop up its allegations that migrants had kidnapped and raped a German girl in Berlin earlier this month, a story German police have said is unfounded and the alleged victim later recanted.
A Russian news site, which targets an audience it describes as “The Soviets of Germany”, first reported on this alleged crime. According to the article, the 13-year-old German-Russian woman was kidnapped for over 30 hours by three men “of Arab origin” on January 11, in Berlin’s Marzahn neighbourhood.
However, while police have confirmed the girl did indeed disappear for several hours that day, they say she gave “conflicting statements” and that following an investigation, they had ruled out kidnapping and rape. Three days later, when the girl was questioned by trained specialists, she immediately admitted that she had made up the rape story, according to the spokesman for the state prosecutor, Martin Steltner.
However, the original news report angered many on the far-right in Germany, especially as the news came amid ongoing investigations into the sexual attack cases in Cologne and other German cities, some of which police say were perpetrated by migrants.
Perviy Kanal (Channel One), one of Russia’s top TV stations, decided to continue reporting on the alleged kidnapping and rape by interviewing the parents of the alleged victim. Her parents told one of their journalists that the Berlin police pressured their daughter to change her version of events. Since this report aired, protesters from the Russian community of Germany have taken to the streets in a show of anger against the police’s ruling. On Sunday, demonstrators called for justice in the town of Ingolstadt in Bavaria.
In one of its multiple reports on this case, Perviy Kanal included a video that they picked up from a Facebook page called “Anonymous Berlin.”
A caption accompanying the video online claimed that it shows a group of “four men of Arab origin, talking in German about how they raped a young virgin girl.” It cited one of them saying that “she was crying and we spat on her [like we spit] on pigs”.
The video, which was published on the “Anonymous Berlin” page on January 14, 2016, has since been removed from Facebook, but a cache is still available.
This Facebook page presents the men in the video as having kidnapped the German-Russian woman. It even asked witnesses to call the police, and included their phone number. The Perviy Kanal report that includes this video is below, in Russian.
However, the video has nothing to do with the case. A group of online fact-checkers in Ukraine discovered that the video actually dates back to 2009. It was first posted on YouTube with the title “Turks speaking openly of rape” and included a link to a non-official German army forum.
"None of the big Russian media outlets clarified that the video was fake!"
It's impossible to say whether or not the incident described by the video's protagonists ever took place. It might just be a provocation. We don't even know if the footage was filmed in Germany [Editor's note: In the video, a man mentions 'Reutigen', a Swiss town in the canton of Bern]. The Facebook group 'Anonymous Berlin' has removed the video from its page. It should be noted that this group has nothing to do with the 'Anonymous' network, a group known for being staunch defenders of freedom of expression on the internet. Instead, the page is openly anti-Islam.
Despite this attempt to mislead the public by spreading a fake video, none of the Russian media outlets that broadcast it [Editor's note: which also included Ria Novosti and Ren-TV] even bothered to clarify afterwards that it was old footage. The reports are still available on their websites.
The Russian media seizes any chance it gets to show Europe in a bad light to turn attention away from the economic crisis that is currently unfolding. Behind these shocking and unverified images, there's a clear message: "These things, like being raped by immigrants, can't happen in Russia.
Despite police denials and a lack of evidence, the alleged rape has continued to cause a stir. On Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov declared that the young girl "couldn't have gone missing for 30 hours without a reason". He asked the German justice system to "shed light on the affair."
In Germany, a criminal complaint for “inciting racial hatred” has been filed by Martin Luithle, a lawyer from the city of Constance, against the Perviy Kanal journalist who produced the report. He accuses him of using a one-sided approach in order to "deliberately" stir up hatred against refugees.
With tensions rising, many NGOs that support migrants say they fear a tightening of Germany's open-door policy. But for the time being, Angela Merkel has refused to put a cap on the number of refugees allowed into the country or to close its border, despite demands from opposition members as well as some of her political allies.