Swiss party just can’t get its poster right

Geneva, Switzerland (GenevaLunch) – The Geneva political party MCG just cannot get its poster right for the 28 November popular referendum vote on shipping out foreigners who commit serious crimes. The Tribune de Geneve announced Tuesday 2 November it is billing the party for copyright infringement for using a photo from the newspaper on a poster.

First the party, which labels itself “not left, not right, Geneva first”, was blasted by regional media in October for using the poster to inflame racism, with its excerpts from cantonal police reports that give nationalities of people arrested.

Then the Geneva government, the Conseil d’Etat, told the party to change its poster because of a line and photo at the bottom considered to be potentially damaging to the national interest: “He wants to destroy Switzerland” next to a photo of Libya’s leader.

Libya and Switzerland continue to try to end a diplomatic row sparked by  the arrest in Geneva of Hannibal Qadaffi, son of the Libyan leader, in July 2008 and that involved the lengthy detention in Libya of two Swiss businessmen. The two countries are still working to establish a tribunal to investigate the circumstances surrounding the younger Qadaffi’s arrest.

The Swiss general attorney 25 October told the party to remove the poster from  public display. The party reacted by filing an appeal with the federal criminal court in Lugano, arguing for freedom of speech.

The leader of the MCG, Eric Stauffer, has had a volatile relationship with Geneva’s ruling bodies: he was barred from the board of the SIG (industrial services of Geneva) in February 2009 by the canton’s Conseil d’Etat (administrative) and most recently he and Guy Mettan, president of the Grand Conseil (executive), have threatened to sue each other.

The Tribune‘s umbrage is over the illegal use of a photo of Geneva’s police chief, Monica Bonfanti, on the poster. The Tribune’s editor-in-chief Pierre Ruetschi says that this is not the first such incident: the party was warned in January 2010 that it had illegally used photos. According to Ruetschi it pleaded a technical error at the time and promised not to repeat the mistake.

The newspaper is now billing the MCG the standard reproduction fee of CHF980, which Stauffer says it will happily pay. His explanation: since photos from the Tribune are reproduced on blogs and elsewhere, sometimes without attribution, it’s not clear that the paper is the owner and the party has assumed these are copyright free.