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Spicy headlines Court dismisses Sikh’s racism complaint against newspaper

fast food

The Sikh was accused of overworking and underpaying his workers.


The Swiss Federal Court has dismissed a racial discrimination complaint filed by a man of the Sikh faith against a Swiss paper that reported on his practice of exploiting workers.

In 2016, the German language tabloid Blick carried a series of seven articles over 15 days on accusations concerning the naturalised Swiss of Indian origin. He was accusedexternal link of underpaying and overworking Eastern Europeans hired to staff the Subway fast-food chain branches he owned in Dietikon, Langenthal and Interlaken.

The articles ran with headlines that referred to the fast-food chain owner as the “The cheekiest Sikh in Switzerlandexternal link” and “Sandwich Sikhexternal link”. The man filed a defamation and racial discrimination complaint with the Zurich police.  However, in 2017 the Zurich public prosecutor's office discontinued the criminal investigation which the Sikh contested in court.

Both the Zurich Cantonal Court and the Federal Court rejected the complaint. The Federal Court upheld the lower court’s view that the newspaper articles were based on serious research. The journalists had succeeded in showing that their accusations made in the media reports were justified.

The country’s highest court did, however, consider it problematic that the paper had linked the man’s dubious business practices with his religion in the headlines. The court acknowledged that this could cause resentment against a certain group in society. However, the Swiss law on racism does not currently punish such phrasing and the court felt that the average reader would not conflate the two. The Zurich public prosecutor has closed the case based on the courts’ ruling. 


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