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Swiss media play the fool on April 1

News that discontented parliamentarians in the right-wing Swiss People's Party have deserted to the left, and the imminent extinction of the wool moth, were just two stories the Swiss media concocted to celebrate April Fool's Day.

News that discontented parliamentarians in the right-wing Swiss People's Party have deserted to the left, and the imminent extinction of the wool moth, were just two stories the Swiss media concocted to celebrate April Fool's Day.

Journalists joke that a reporter should never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and April 1 is the one day of the year when honest hacks get the opportunity to put that sentiment into practice.

This year, the Swiss media have really delivered the goods. Even that pillar of journalistic and linguistic respectability, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, pushed out the boat with almost half a page of outrageous twaddle.

The NZZ's contribution to this annual flaunting of the facts focused on the imminent destruction of the wool moth. It advised nature lovers to dispose of their mothballs and leave cashmere garments lying about in order to try and stave off the impending extinction of this ravenous creature.

The Tages-Anzeiger opted to appeal to its readers' more mercenary tendencies, revealing that a "gold nugget" had been concealed on the building site of a new tunnel, and was there for the taking.

Journalists at Swissinfo's television partner, DRS, contented themselves with a teletext message announcing an "unbelievable" offer from a mobile telephone company. New customers, it said, could not only benefit from a month's worth of free calls, but that the company was offering to pay its customers one franc per minute for using their service.

The private radio station, Radio 24, chose to get its own back on the politicians it is always forced to write about. Radio 24 had news that the Swiss president, Adolf Ogi, was resigning from the right-wing Swiss People's Party to head a new Swiss "Liberal" People's Party. It's well-known in Switzerland that Ogi does not see eye-to-eye with the head of his party's Zurich branch, Christoph Blocher.

The newspaper, Der Bund, had a similar line, suggesting that discontented politicians from the Swiss People's Party had joined forces with some left-leaning Social Democrats to form a new party. Dubbing it simply "The Party", the paper said its main strength was that it had no political programme, and was thus infinitely adaptable.

If humour, outrageousness and imagination make for a good April Fool's story, the Swiss media did very well this year. However, many journalists believe the strength of an April Fool's story is best judged by how many people actually believe it. On that count, I suspect few were fooled.

For the record, we at Swissinfo didn't put any April Fool's stories on our website. At least, I don't think so.

by Jonas Hughes

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