The Swiss Times - Swiss News in English

Switzerland to Russia: Stop threatening our journalists

  • By The Swiss Times
  • 21 April 2023
The Russian ambassador to Switzerland was summoned to Bern to discuss “unacceptable” threats made towards a Swiss journalist that he would be put in a forced labor camp or prison over a recent article.
<strong>Switzerland to Russia: Stop threatening our journalists</strong>
Die russische Botschaft in Bern, fotografiert, am Freitag, 4. Maerz 2022 in Bern. (KEYSTONE/Anthony Anex)

Threatening a Swiss journalist with prison time is not tolerated under the Swiss constitution’s freedom of the press the Swiss Foreign Ministry told the Russian ambassador to Switzerland this week, Keystone-SDA reported.

What happened

The comments refer to an article from a Neue Zürcher Zeitung correspondent who is stationed in eastern Europe. The journalist recently reported on the Ukrainian resistance in Melitopol, a city in the southeastern region of Zaporizhzhia. The journalist reported that, among other acts, Ukrainian women were handing out pastries to Russian soldiers, laced with laxatives. (The article no longer appears on the NZZ website.)

In response to the article, the Russian embassy announced that that the journalist had fabricated the story and was spreading rumors supported by the “Kiev regime and its henchmen.” The Embassy said that the language used in the article – such as “peaceful guerrilla actions” – was chosen to justify terrorism. The Embassy said that the journalist had broken Russian law and was facing steep fines, imprisonment, and forced labor.

“Such intimidation” is unacceptable, Bern said.

“According to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, foreign diplomats are obliged to respect the laws and regulations of the receiving country, including the constitution, and thus also fundamental rights,” it said in a statement.

Russia responds

The Russian Embassy released a written response this week in the Tages-Anzeiger newspaper explaining how their statement was “in no way threatening.”

We merely remind NZZ journalists that despite the freedom of expression, they live in a rule of law, and they should follow the laws, which among other things forbid the supporting of terrorist activities, as we indicated to the dear journalist.

Russian Embassy in Switzerland
<strong>Switzerland to Russia: Stop threatening our journalists</strong>
Geneva photojournalist Guillaume Briquet following the attack (Credit: Guillaume Briquet’s Instagram).
OAG: Who shot at our journalist?

Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) last month open a war crimes investigation into the shooting of a Geneva-based photojournalist who was reporting from Ukraine in 2022.

“A criminal procedure has been opened following a report by a non-governmental organization,” an OAG said on March 23. The Ukrainian non-profit Truth Hounds filed a complaint last year following an attack on Guillaume Briquet, a Swiss journalist.

Briquet was ambushed by a Russian commando on March 6, 2022 as he was driving from Kropyvnytsky to Mykolaïv in Ukraine, according to Civitas Maxima. Briquet’s vehicle, which had Geneva license plates and “PRESS” written on the car, was shot at twice on both the driver’s and passenger’s side.

“The soldiers wanted to kill me,” Briquet said, whose head and arms were injured by broken glass.

“Briquet believes that the reason the press is being targeted is to intimidate journalists not to report on the conflict,” according to Civitas Maxima.

In its investigation, the OAG has created a task force to gather testimonies from Ukrainian refugees in Switzerland – information that could be used in court in the future, according to SWI SwissInfo. The publication added that those responsible have been identified.

Meanwhile, an American journalist for The Wall Street Journal is sitting behind bars in Russia on espionage charges. His release was denied this week.

This article may be freely shared and re-printed, provided that it prominently links back to the original article.

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