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Fact Check-Greta Thunberg’s brief detention was not ‘staged by the media’

Climate activist Greta Thunberg’s detainment during a protest near Luetzerath village in western Germany was not orchestrated by the media, despite claims circulating on social media.

Reuters reported Thunberg was briefly detained in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia and subsequently released along with other activists on Jan. 17 during a demonstration against the demolition of a village to pave the way for a coal mine expansion (here). An Aachen police spokesperson told Reuters, "Greta Thunberg was part of a group of activists who rushed towards the ledge. However, she was then stopped and carried by us with this group out of the immediate danger area to establish their identity."

Some posts claimed the incident was staged by the media (here), (here). Reuters, the German Press Agency (DPA), and Bild were among those reporting on the scene.

A Reuters spokesperson said: “Reuters does not stage news events—and we did not do so in this case. We have a strict policy against staging, as well as publishing photos or video of scenes staged by other news organizations. We are committed to delivering accurate and reliable news, as the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles require.”

A spokesperson for the DPA, whose photographer was also at the scene, did not directly address claims it was “staged by the media” but provided Reuters with a statement recounting the chain of events of the detention. They said she and other demonstrators “left the permitted demonstration route” toward the mine, and that the police then surrounded and carried the demonstrators who did not cooperate voluntarily away to identify them.

The German media outlet Bild, also at the scene, similarly sent Reuters an article where Bild reporter Michael Engelberg recounted what occurred (here).

Some posts (bit.ly/3GNjuCq) said the incident was staged with the police. In a statement to Reuters Fact Check, a spokesperson for the Aachen police said that their detainment of Thunberg was not staged, saying they "are not the extras" for Greta Thunberg.

A spokesperson for Thunberg declined to comment on the online claims that the incident was staged.

Reuters had been covering this protest for days prior to Thunberg’s arrival, with photographs of demonstrators detained by police personnel on Jan. 10 viewable (here), (here), (here), (here).

Reuters on Jan. 13 reported on Thunberg’s visit to the site (here) as well as protestors retreating to an underground tunnel amid the protests (here).

VERDICT

False. Thunberg’s detainment at a coal mine in the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia was not staged by media.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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