Swiss president faulted in House probe over media leaks
November 18, 2023 12:51 PM
Swiss President Alain Berset was partially faulted in a parliamentary inquiry which concluded Friday that sensitive information leaked from his office had impacted government decisions during the pandemic.
The probe was announced last January amid suspicion of significant leaks of confidential information from the Swiss health ministry as the Covid-19 pandemic raged.
The affair, dubbed "Coronaleaks" and "Bersetgate" by Swiss media, revolved around how much Health Minister Berset -- who currently holds the country's rotating one-year presidency and was the face of the government's Covid response -- knew and what impact the leaks had on government decisions.
The investigation was opened after reports emerged that Berset's former communications chief had, at the height of the pandemic, systematically leaked information to Ringier, one of Switzerland's largest media houses, about confidential government plans for measures to counter the virus, including around vaccines and the reopening of businesses.
In their findings presented Friday, the parliamentary Control Committees that carried out the investigation, said they had confirmed large quantities of leaks of classified information about the government's Covid-19 response that appeared in various media.
Some 200 articles published by 24 different outlets had contained information based on these "indiscretions", the investigators told a press conference.
These leaks, the investigators said, "Led to a loss of confidence within the Federal Council (government) and had concrete consequences on the ways it took its decisions."
The investigation confirmed that the Ringier chief had received information listed as "confidential" from Berset's former chief of staff, although it did not turn up evidence that specific information appeared in print.
Berset, who is scheduled to leave both the presidency and government at the end of the year, had been "aware of the regular contacts between his chief of staff and the head of Ringier", the investigators found.
But they said there was no evidence that Berset had been aware of the concrete content being exchanged or that "indiscretions had been committed".
Given the large number of leaks emerging from his ministry, the investigators meanwhile questioned that "he did not take specific measures" to get to the bottom of what was going on.