Reporter fired over plagiarism, fakery

Updated 2017-09-22 11:00:54 China Daily

A Dutch reporter stationed in China was dismissed after his former assistant, who is Chinese, accused him of making up quotes and plagiarizing.

On Wednesday, NRC Handelsblad - a daily newspaper published in the Netherlands - released an investigative report in response to allegations made by Zhang Chaoqun earlier this month on social media. Zhang accused reporter Oscar Garschagen of making up quotes and facts in his stories, as well as plagiarizing from other media outlets - activities that violate basic journalism ethics standards.

Based on the findings, the newspaper fired Garschagen.

"I will never forgive myself for my stupidity. I have violated the standards of NRC and myself," the report quoted Garschagen as saying.

Zhang Chaoqun, the former assistant to Garschagen, said on Thursday that the newspaper's decision to dismiss him for violating journalism ethics based on the evidence provided is acceptable but not enough.

"I decided to fire my own boss and report his wrongdoing because I just can no longer live with the guilt of knowing what he did was wrong and not saying anything," Zhang, 32, said on Thursday.

"He owes an apology to the victims, including those whose words were misused and even fabricated in stories."

Zhang quit his job earlier.

Chen Peiqin, a professor at Shanghai International Studies University's School of Journalism and Communication, said, "People shouldn't focus on the fact that he is a foreigner and a veteran reporter. Any reporter in any country who violates journalism ethics should be punished."

The report said Garschagen committed serious mistakes including making up interviewees' names and using one person's quotes under a different name. Also, some information presented as fact in his stories was wrong or misinterpreted. In some cases, he plagiarized from other media outlets, the report said.

Based in Shanghai, Garschagen, 64, had been the Dutch newspaper's China correspondent since 2007. He had worked as a foreign correspondent in Israel and the United States and was set to retire in 2018.

Zhang started working as Garschagen's assistant in August 2015. He said he began to notice the inaccuracies in Garschagen's reports three months later when Garschagen wanted to write about suicides among elderly people in China.

Zhang said he found two articles from Chinese media, for Garschagen's reference, about two men from different provinces who committed suicide. When Garschagen's article was published, Zhang noticed that the two stories had been merged into one, and Garschagen didn't provide the sources.

"It's like he did all the interviews," Zhang said.

Zhang provided more than 20 pieces of evidence on Garschagen's misconduct to NRC Handelsblad. The newspaper said it also received an email from a former Chinese correspondent of National Public Radio in the U.S. accusing Garschagen of plagiarizing two articles from the NPR website.

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