'Hate speech': SVP cries censorship after YouTube blocks anti-refugee campaign video

The Local/AFP
The Local/AFP - [email protected]
'Hate speech': SVP cries censorship after YouTube blocks anti-refugee campaign video

Switzerland's largest party on Thursday accused Google of censorship after a campaign video, which demonised asylum seekers, was removed from YouTube less than two weeks before national elections.


The Zurich chapter of the right-wing SVP, which produced the video, gave YouTube's parent company Google a deadline of Sunday to put it back online and condemned the company for intervening in Swiss politics.

"We can confirm that this video was blocked by YouTube in Switzerland for reasons of violating YouTube's hate speech policy," Google spokeswoman Violeta Torres told AFP in an email.

But SVP-Zurich spokesman Martin Suter told AFP that "all statements in the film are sourced."

Party supporters "do not understand why Google, an American corporation, is intervening in Swiss politics and is censoring a commercial," he said, referring to messages the party has received on Facebook.

Backed by a menacing soundtrack, the video features a set of headlines that question the validity of asylum claims made by Eritreans and argues that Eritreans living in Switzerland are a drain on national resources.

Switzerland for years had an open-door policy for those fleeing Eritrea, where the authoritarian government has been accused of widespread rights violations including open-ended military conscription.

Previously, to qualify as a refugee upon arrival in Switzerland, Eritreans simply needed to say that they had left their country "illegally".

But those rules were tightened following a 2017 court ruling, which found that not all Eritreans seeking asylum in Switzerland faced imminent threat in their home country.

Suter cited previous court rulings to claim that Eritreans, who currently make up the largest group of asylum seekers in Switzerland, are not "real refugees."

Asked what the SVP would do if the video was not restored by Sunday, he told AFP the party would decide how to proceed on Monday.

"Personally, I assume that Google has made a mistake and that they blocked the video prematurely," he said.

Switzerland holds national elections on October 20. The SVP currently holds the most seats in parliament, but recent polls indicate left-of-centre parties could make gains at the polls.


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