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Swiss president remains tight-lipped on ‘Covid leaks’

Alain Berset at a press conference in Bern on Wednesday, January 26, 2023. Keystone / Anthony Anex

Alain Berset told his ministerial colleagues on Wednesday that he had no knowledge of leaks from his department to the media. In public however Berset remains reluctant to give further information.

Government spokesman André Simonazzi said on Wednesday that the seven ministers had had lengthy discussions about alleged leaks by Berset’s former head of communications to the Ringier media group, notably involving planned Covid-19 measures (the leaks go back several years).

The alleged leaked information included a reported tip-off about Swiss plans to buy vaccines.

It was the first government meeting since the allegations emerged in the Schweiz am Wochenende newspaper on January 14.

According to Simonazzi, the government as a whole condemns “indiscretions”, which damage its work, its credibility, and the national interest. However, it intends to continue to operate on the basis of “restored trust”, he said.

Media and institutions

Berset has consistently said that the investigation of such affairs need to be done “within the framework of the institutions”, and as such has refused to give substantially more information to journalists.

On RTS public television on Wednesday evening, Berset declined a request to repeat the denial he gave the government earlier in the day, and said it was not the role of the media to conduct a trial.

Earlier this week an oversight committee in parliament said it would open an inquiry into the affair, to look at Berset’s role and that of the government. Other legal investigations are ongoing, including into Berset’s former communications chief.

Berset said on Wednesday he welcomed the opening of the parliamentary inquiry, and that he would tell it “all that he knows and all that he knew”.

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