German reporters protest nixing of probe into tabloid editor

Journalists at one of Germany’s largest newspaper groups have protested their publisher’s decision to nix a lengthy investigation into alleged abuse of power by the chief editor of the country’s top-selling tabloid newspaper.

A letter circulated on social media late Sunday accused Ippen.Media and its publisher, Dirk Ippen, of “breach of trust” for deciding to halt the report, which had been months in the making. The letter was dated Friday and the report was due to be published Sunday.

The investigation focused on Julian Reichelt, chief editor of daily Bild, who has faced scrutiny over his management style that allegedly included bullying and abusing his position of power toward female staff.

Reichelt, one of the mightiest figures in German media, was temporarily suspended from his post earlier this year but later reinstated, after Bild’s publishing company Axel Springer SE said his actions didn’t warrant dismissal.

In their letter, four leading members of Ippen’s investigations team said their planned report would have brought “new and exclusive” information to light and had been thoroughly fact checked and approved by lawyers.

“The fact that you nevertheless decided not to let us publish the story runs counter to all the rules of independent reporting,” the letter said. Its authenticity was confirmed to The Associated Press by a person at Ippen.Media who spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.

Ippen.Media didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. The company, a rival of Axel Springer, owns numerous newspapers in Germany and last year acquired Buzzfeed’s German brand.

The New York Times published a report Sunday containing further details of an internal probe into Reichelt’s alleged affair with a trainee.

Axel Springer has successfully expanded its business in the United States in recent years. It owns online media company Insider and the business-oriented Morning Brew, and in August it announced a deal to buy the U.S.-based political news company Politico and the tech news site Protocol.

Axel Springer also didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

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