Press Council reprimands Bote der Urschweiz and 20 Minutes

The free newspaper 20 Minutes in French-speaking Switzerland has been reprimanded by the Swiss Press Council. In addition, the Press Council partially approved the complaint of a public prosecutor from Schwyz against the Boten der Urschweiz.

The messenger had indirectly suspected the public prosecutor of indiscretion, but had not consulted him as required. This is what the Press Council wrote in its decision published on Tuesday. One of the public prosecutors approached the Press Council and criticized the fact that he was not questioned about the central statement that he was part of a rope team for committing indiscretions. The editors objected that they had not directly or indirectly accused anyone of indiscretion. However, it was not allowed to conceal the fact that there was a rope team. This was relevant for the public.

On July 15, the Bote der Urschweiz reported on the conflict between the Schwyz public prosecutor's office and the cantonal courts under the title "Schwyz judicial dispute escalates". It also concerned criticism of the president of the cantonal court in connection with the release of a child molester. The messenger raised the question of whether this was a "tit-for-tat response to the cantonal court's criticism" of the public prosecutors in another case. As the messenger wrote, this could not be proven, but certain rope teams could be identified. Two public prosecutors were mentioned by name.

The Press Council is of the opinion that the messenger, as he named people as possible authors of an indiscretion, should have heard them out. Anyone who again hints at indiscretions in a heated judicial climate in which indiscretions have already been committed is making a serious accusation. The editorial team should therefore have questioned the public prosecutor.

20 Minutes reprimanded for unfair undercover research
The free newspaper 20 Minutes in French-speaking Switzerland also received a reprimand from the Swiss Press Council. In a report on the homosexual tendencies of a teacher and member of the Geneva city parliament, the newspaper had resorted to dishonest, undercover research.

According to the newspaper report from the end of April 2011, the person concerned had made advances to a 15-year-old teenager via a gay website. Behind the alleged teenager was an undercover employee of 20 Minuten. According to SDA, the teacher was suspended at the time of publication due to ongoing administrative proceedings against him. 20 Minutes illustrated the article with a screenshot of the website showing an excerpt from the chat and a pixelated photo of the teacher and politician.

According to its decision published on Tuesday, the Press Council considers it unfair within the meaning of point 4 of the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists" to actively lure an already suspended teacher via a gay website in this way. He points out that undercover research is only permissible in exceptional cases and under strict conditions. For an invasion of privacy, an overriding public interest in the information is required, which moreover cannot be obtained in any other way. In the opinion of the Press Council, in this specific case there is not merely a lack of overriding public interest in the research. In particular, 20 Minuten should have refrained from publication based on the principle of proportionality, as the suspended teacher had already announced his retirement from politics at the time of publication. In addition, 20 Minutes had also violated clauses 3 (concealment of important information) and 7 (respect for privacy) of the "Declaration of Duties and Rights of Journalists". The author of the report failed to mention a passage from the chat that would have put the accusations into perspective.

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