A Sunday newspaper was wrong to publish an article about a politician who sent naked selfies to a woman, the Press Council has ruled. The story violated the privacy of Baden town mayor Geri Müller, the watchdog said.
The Schweiz am Sonntag ran a story in August 2014 that parliamentarian Müller had sent explicit text messages, including naked selfies, to the woman – sometimes during working hours. The article attracted 18 complaints from other parliamentarians.
On Wednesday, the Press Council upheld these complaints, saying that the newspaper had no business exposing the private affairs of the Green Party politician. The council said that not even Müller’s position as mayor of Baden, a town about 20km (14 miles) west of Zurich, justified the story.
The newspaper had argued that it was in the public interest to print the story given Müller’s position.
The article also accused Müller of interfering in a subsequent police investigation after the woman threatened to commit suicide. Citing unnamed “trusted sources” the article accused him of ordering police to arrest the woman and confiscate her mobile telephone.
The Press Council agreed that printing a story about such inappropriate police interference would be in the public interest, but ruled that the Schweiz am Sonntag had got its facts wrong and had not carried out sufficient research.
The council was unequivocal about the article violating Müller’s private sphere in relation to the sex chats. “The contents of intimate chats belong in the intimate sphere, and it is not appropriate for the media to report on them,” said Press Council vice-chairman Max Trossmann.
Schweiz am Sonntag publisher Peter Wanner told the Aargauer Zeitung - another newspaper in his publishing stable - that he stood by the story. He also accused the Press Council of bowing to “political pressure” in its verdict.
“The decisive question remains, whether the sexist actions of executive leaders in administrative offices is permitted, and if they do occur, whether people can claim the protection of privacy,” Wanner stated.
Müller’s Green Party parliamentary colleague, Louis Schelbert, wrote that the article constituted a “new quality of disregard for the private life of a public figure”. Müller ended his national parliamentary career last August, but remains in place as Baden mayor.
swissinfo.ch with agencies