Society

Switzerland: Anti-Roma front page provokes controversy

13 April 2012
Presseurop

, 13 April 2012

The picture made the front page of the Swiss weekly Weltwoche. A boy is pointing a gun at the reader. He is a Roma, and the title that accompanies the image is: “The Roma are arriving. Criminal expedition to Switzerland.”

A week after its publication, this cover, along with an accompanying article that is discriminatory and racist, continues to provoke widespread criticism in the international press. The Central German Council of Sinti and Roma has complained of demagoguery and has demanded the weekly be withdrawn from newstands.

In Berlin, the Tagesspiegel has investigated the story behind the photo and discovered that Weltwoche, reputedly close to the populist Swiss right, took the picture out of its original context. The intention of the Italian photographer, Livio Mancini, Tagesspiegel writes, was to demonstrate the plight of Roma families in Europe -

Mancini photographed Roma children in the slums of the city of Gjakova in Kosovo, where their families washed up after the war. Their hovels are built on a toxic landfill, where they live off what they can find in the garbage to eat or to sell.... The series of photos of these children at the landfill is not depicting an isolated tragic case. The ten to 12 million Sinti and Roma are the biggest minority in Europe and live in the worst conditions. The majority are poor and threatened by pogroms. [...] Mancini’s photographs criticise this situation. (In Weltwoche) they were just twisted around to make the victims into perpetrators.

In an email to the Tagesspiegel Mancini denounces the “abuse of my photograph.”  Weltwoche has responded to the harsh criticism by defending its “facts”. “The abuse of children for criminal purposes”, the magazine declares, has been obscured by the controversy, but it avoids discussing its lack of “visual ethics”. Livio Mancini, nevertheless, is pleased that the theme of the poverty of the Roma has been brought to public attention.