Criminal order against journalist Binswanger for defamation

The Tages-Anzeiger journalist Michéle Binswanger has been found guilty by the Basel public prosecutor's office by order of punishment for defaming the former Zug cantonal councillor Jolanda Spiess-Hegglin. The journalist was given a conditional fine of 45 daily sentences of 200 francs and a fine of 1500 francs. Binswanger will appeal the verdict.

Monday's penalty order, which was available to the Keystone-SDA news agency, is not yet legally binding. CH Media had previously reported on the verdict.

Spiess-Hegglin, who works as the managing director of the Netzcourage association against hate on the internet, had reported Binswanger for defamation and libel in her canton of residence, Basel-Stadt. The reason for the criminal complaint was a tweet by Binswanger on 4 May 2020.

Binswanger had written that Spiess-Hegglin had been accusing an innocent man of rape for five and a half years. The background is the Zug Landammann celebration of 2014, after which Spiess-Hegglin's cantonal council colleague Markus Hürlimann had come under suspicion for a possible sexual offence. Criminally, the incidents were concluded without convictions.

Binswanger had published the "incriminated tweet" against his better knowledge, the criminal order stated. This was despite the fact that the accusation of false accusation had already been conclusively investigated by the prosecution authorities and refuted in Spiess-Hegglin's favour.

Tamedia will appeal the verdict and submit evidence against the accusation of defamation, as Nicole Bänninger, Head of Communications at Tamedia, said on request. The Basel public prosecutor's office had issued an order of summary punishment against Binswanger without first hearing her. Tamedia is not commenting further on the proceedings at this time.

ETUC criticises communication by Spiess-Hegglin

Spiess-Hegglin and Binswanger have been in a legal dispute for about a year: Binswanger was most recently working on a book about the Landammann celebration, but it may not be published for the time being.

Last September, the Zug Cantonal Court had confirmed a super-provisional injunction issued in May 2020. Spiess-Hegglin had justified her application for a ban on the grounds that she wanted to prevent Binswanger from writing about her in a way that violated her personality.

After various private social media posts by Spiess-Hegglin - namely a "Like" under a Twitter entry of the online platform "Megafon" of the Reitschule Bern, which showed Binswanger with his head cut off - the Federal Office for Gender Equality (EGB) intervened two weeks ago. It supports the Netzcourage association with an amount of 192,000 Swiss francs.

The ETUC criticised in particular the deficiencies in Netzcourage's communication and the lack of separation between Spiess-Hegglin's role as a private person and as managing director. It therefore sent the association a reminder, asking it to submit a communication concept and a code of conduct on social media by 31 August.

The co-president of Netzcourage, Greta Gysin (Greens/TI), wrote on Twitter that Netzcourage had taken note of the EBG's warning. They are aware that the partial financing of their victim support service also entails obligations and that "the association must adapt organisationally to the new requirements".(SDA)

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