Magazine under fire for racist Roma cover

Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 01:00

SWITZERLAND’S right-wing Weltwoche news weekly is facing charges of incitement for using a photograph of a gun-wielding Roma child on its cover.

The arresting image, accompanied by the headline “The Roma are coming: Plundering in Switzerland”, accompanies a series of stories about the “growing trend of criminal tourism for which eastern European Roma clans are responsible”. The article says: “They come, steal and leave,” with gangs specialising in break-ins and thefts, organised begging and street prostitution.

Critics say the magazine, with links to the right-wing populist People’s Party (SVP), is being deliberately provocative and encouraged racist stereotyping by linking ethnic origin and criminality.

Switzerland’s Federal Commission against Racism is considering taking a case after several complaints from Switzerland, Austria and Germany that the cover breached anti-racism laws.

Weltwoche editors have shrugged off the controversy, saying critics outraged by the cover image – taken in Kosovo, not Switzerland – did not address the phenomenon of criminal Roma gangs.

“The image symbolises the Roma gangs’ revolting practice of often using children for criminal purposes. This is confirmed by police reports from the regions,” said deputy editor Philipp Gut.

“We dealt with this in a careful, differentiated way in an article most critics haven’t read. Closing one’s eyes to this situation doesn’t help anyone, least of all the children being abused.”

Inside the magazine, Mr Gut concedes that “precise numbers for the level of criminality of this ethnic group do not exist as police criminal statistics differentiate only by nationality, not by ethnicity”.