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Readers flee Basel daily after Blocher takeover

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Readers flee Basel daily after Blocher takeover
Thomas Leuthard
13:59 CET+01:00

The Basler Zeitung has lost more than 1,000 subscribers in a single week after it was revealed that the paper is owned by the family of far-right Swiss People's Party (SVP) deputy leader Christoph Blocher.

In an interview with newspaper Sonntagsblick, the Basel daily's editor-in-chief, Markus Somm, confirmed the “dramatic figure” and said he understood the sudden departure of many customers who felt cheated.

Massive subscription cancellations have not been the only form of protest. On Saturday, several hundred people rallied on the streets of Basel to voice their discontent with the recently unveiled ownership of the paper.

Writing in the Sunday edition of the Basel paper, Somm said it had been a mistake for Christoph Blocher, the outspoken figurehead of Switzerland's largest political party, not to have explained his financial connection to the Basler Zeitung.

Businessman Moritz Suter bought the Basler Zeitung in November 2010, but it was not known at the time that Blocher loaned Suter the funds for the purchase.

Last week, competing German-language Swiss newspapers revealed that Blocher had his 35-year-old daughter, Rahel Blocher, sign legal papers including the loan contracts and a ban on selling the publication to third parties.

After the revelations, Suter no longer felt the need to hide the truth. On December 12th, he announced his resignation along with the transfer of his 100 percent shareholding in the newspaper to Rahel Blocher.

Last week, three Swiss media unions issued a joint statement detailing their concerns.
 
“When one of the richest Swiss – and vice-president of the strongest party – buys into the media, we are on the way to Berlusconisation,” the statement said, referring to former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who controls the international media group Mediaset.

Rahel Blocher, nicknamed “the ghost” in a recent profile piece in the Handelszeitung, has not appeared in public or issued any statements. Her father remained silent until this weekend when he talked about the purchase on TeleBlocher, his own internet television station.

Typically for the controversial politician, his speech sparked criticism, this time after he compared the uproar over the Basler Zeitung takeover with Second World War “paranoia.”

“It reminds me of the time when the word was: ‘Don’t buy from Jews!’” he said.

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