Swiss media boss steered Covid coverage
Marc Walder, CEO of Ringier, one of Switzerland's largest media groups, has come under fire after it emerged that he said at a conference in February 2021 that he had instructed journalists to take a pro-government line in their coverage of the Covid pandemic. Media react indignantly to this encroachment on editorial independence.
Journalists not just yes-sayers
The Ringier boss has damaged the credibility of the entire journalistic profession, the Tages-Anzeiger criticises:
“As noble as the end may be, it does not justify the means. ... Journalists must be able to conduct open-ended research and write freely about the results of their investigations. Anything else is PR. ... At a time when there has been a huge loss of confidence in the free press, Walder's statement is catastrophic. It confirms the conspiracy theorists and those who decry the 'lying press', who have always been convinced that the media are controlled. After all, if the papers lie about the coronavirus, why should things be any different for other big issues, such as climate change? Walder's statement is poison for the most valuable asset of the free press: its credibility. And hence ultimately also for democracy.”
Disconcerting and unprofessional
Walder's behaviour contradicts the principles of journalism, the Aargauer Zeitung criticises:
“It is not the task of journalists to give blanket approval to government decisions. On the contrary, they should adopt a sceptical approach and critically assess the work of the political authorities. ... In the Covid crisis the situation is serious; human lives are at stake. Governments base their stance on data that sometimes conveys a diffuse picture of the situation. And often the opinions of virologists and other experts fail to provide a uniform picture, so that it is not always clear to governments how they should proceed. It seems strange that in such a situation the head of a media company should declare his unconditional loyalty to the Federal Council.”