Remove posters by 2 pm today or face CHF 10,000 fine
In a very fast track procedure, the cantonal court has ruled that the posters at Zug Station depicting Heinz Tännler, the cantonal director of finance, and Matthias Michel, the head of the Cantonal Department of Economic Development, in relation to a campaign to introduce legislation to ensure the provision of affordable housing in the canton, are to be removed by 2 pm on Friday 21 April. Failing this, the organisers of the campaign will be fined CHF 10,000.
The campaign was launched by its co-chairman, Yannick Ringger, and is equally supported by cantonal parliamentarian Andreas Lustenberger along with the Young Socialist and the Young Alternative parties. They feel that, if the housing situation is left to market forces alone, more and more young people from Zug will have to move to areas beyond the cantonal border. Hence they feel the only solution is the enactment of a new law, which could be introduced if the campaign is successful in the referendum om May 21.
Resorting to the law over a perceived injustice, too, was felt by Tännler and Michel to be the only option left open to them, bearing in mind they considered the inclusion of photographs of them on posters supporting the campaign were misleading, especially since they oppose this approach to the creation of more affordable housing. They also disapproved of having the level of their salaries published, too. Indeed, they felt the posters had contravened their personal rights. The judge ruled in their favour in special proceedings which heard only their side of the story; the organisers of the campaign not having the opportunity to put their case. As mentioned, the court ruled that the misleading posters be removed by 2 pm today. Furthermore, copies of the posters on online media are to be removed by this time, too. In another ruling, the organising committee must ensure that any reporting in relation to the involvement of Tännler and Michel in the campaign be deleted from any data storage at Google (Switzerland) forthwith.
Both government members recognised that, as politicians, they had to develop a thick skin, but in this instance, they felt the campaign organisers had gone too far.
On hearing the court’s ruling, Ringger said that the posters would be removed by the designated time, simply because the campaign did not have sufficient funds to pay a CHF 10,000 fine. In the meantime, the posters remain up at the station, with the faces of the two government members covered over in black and marked “censored”.
However, Yannick emphasised that although the posters were having to be removed, this did not mean that the cantonal government members were right in this matter. “We find it totally unacceptable that, in a democratic state, people’s right to freedom of expression is being restricted in this way,” he said.
Now the organisers of the campaign want judges to rule on whether these posters really did contravene personal rights and are seeking to raise funds to take the matter further. “We are confident we will be proven right,” insisted Yannick. “And then we will put up the posters all over the canton, even when the referendum is over.”
It is not yet known whether the CHF 3,000 court costs incurred yesterday are to be borne by Tännler and Michel themselves, or whether the canton is to pay.
Never in recent years have two posters at Zug Station attracted so much publicity, though whether this will lead to more votes in support of the affordable housing campaign remains to be seen.