Media Far from Neutral on Swiss Voters Approving Deportation Measure for Violent Criminals

November 30th, 2010 12:30 PM

Correction [December 7; 15:05 EST]: Ms. Bachmann has informed me Tages-Anzeiger is based in Zurich, not Geneva.

The liberal media are generally fond of touting European countries for their liberal domestic policies, chastising America by comparison for being too conservative.

But when the electorate of such a country votes to institute a strong conservative policy over the objections of its political elite, the media's fascination with the European everyman evaporates.

Take Sunday's vote by Swiss citizens to institute a referendum law requiring foreigners convicted of serious crimes to be expelled from the country after serving out their sentences. Fifty-three percent of voters approved the bill, dismissing the objections of their professional political class who urged "no" votes.

Covering the story, the Christian Science Monitor decried the move as "the latest example of a sweeping set of popular antiforeigner measures around Europe":

The vote to deport came over and against the views of many elected Swiss politicians, who seemed unable to rally against it.


On Monday, Swiss editorial positions warned against the nation being ruled by referendum or a new “dictatorship of the people.” The Geneva-based [sic] Tages-Anzeiger stated that, “The image of a cosmopolitan, tolerant, and internationally engaged country has taken a further battering.”


The Zurich-based Blick daily took a center line: "We are talking of 500 to 1,500 foreign criminals who would be expelled every year. Almost 2 million foreigners live here peacefully and contribute to our well-being. We should not lose sight of this proportionality."

In her dispatch from Geneva, Time magazine's Helena Bachmann at least put a human face on the pro-deportation majority, opening her story with one Lise Thevenaz, a Geneva receptionist whose teenage son  "was brutally beaten last summer by a band of immigrants from Eastern Europe":

When she found out Sunday night that 53% of voters also supported the proposal, "I thought that finally we would be able to feel safe in our own country," she says.

But Thevenaz was the only pro-deportation voice in Bachmann's piece, as the Time contributor devoted the rest of the article to critics slamming the new law as violative of treaty obligations and possibly of the human rights of foreigners, as well as a cynical ploy by a minority of Swiss politicians appealing to populist anti-immigrant sentiment.

At no point did Bachmann include a pro-deportation lawmaker who would argue the deportation measure is about law and order, not an indictment of all foreigners.

For its part, the New York Times painted the move as a victory for the "far-right":

GENEVA — After heated debate and a campaign utilizing controversial “black sheep” posters, Switzerland’s far-right party won voters’ support in a referendum Sunday that calls for the automatic deportation of foreigners who are convicted of serious crimes.

Voters also rejected an initiative to set a minimum national tax rate for the wealthy that opponents asserted would have dimmed Switzerland’s allure as a tax oasis for rich foreigners and would have prompted an exodus by many wealthy Swiss and foreigners alike.

By contrast, the Times labeled the tax measure as coming from the "leftist" rather than "far-left" Social Democrat Party noting that "[e]arly enthusiasm for the initiative faded in the face of arguments by business organizations and threats to leave the country issued by some of Switzerland’s prominent rich."