Russia threatens to sue Swiss newspaper over Putin caricature
The Russian government has threatened to sue a Swiss newspaper after it published a photoshopped picture of President Vladimir Putin. The Russian Embassy in Bern sent the Neue Zürcher Zeitung a letter of protest, claiming they may pursue legal action.
The NZZ analysed how memes are shaping the war in Ukraine
On June 25, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ) published a piece entitled Between Superheroes and Villains: The Power of Memes in the Ukraine War. In the article, journalist Marit Langschwager analysed how memes on the internet “often simplify complex processes,” such as events during the war in Ukraine.
The article included several “memes” related to the conflict and speculated whether internet humour could be used to sway public opinion and diplomacy in future wars. While there was no direct attack on Vladimir Putin in the text, the NZZ did include a photoshopped image of the Russian President wearing a clown nose and sporting LGBTQ+ flag face paint.
Russian Embassy threatens legal action of Swiss newspaper story
This angered the Russian Embassy in Bern, which said in a letter to NZZ editor Eric Gujer that the “little-known young journalist” had surpassed other Swiss writers who "regularly spread inventions and insults against the Russian leadership, shamelessly and unpunished." The embassy claimed the memes were created by “Ukrainian troll factories,” and are mere “reprints of stock images” characterised by “a flat sense of humour.”
The embassy argued that the newspaper - one of the largest news outlets in Zurich - had "violated the honour and dignity of the president." They also took ire at the LGBTQ+ flag on Putin's face, which they said offends the "traditional Christian values of Russian society" and reflected how LGBTQ+ ideals are “forcefully promoted in the west."
In concluding their statement, the Embassy threatened the NZZ with legal action, saying they reserved the right to contact the Swiss police and sue the paper for “this and possible future publications of a libellous and offensive nature.” They cautioned the newspaper to “approach the selection of materials for publication more carefully” in future. The article remains published.