Cargolux chairwoman quits Covid-skeptic website
The new chairwoman at state-backed air freight company Cargolux cut ties with a website that amplifies false and misleading information about vaccines and regulations to limit Covid-19.
Christianne Wickler, one of five founders of the website launched in January, resigned along with another man on Wednesday, according to a filing with Luxembourg's business register.
Wickler did not respond to phone calls and email messages from the Luxembourg Times this week. An assistant said on Thursday that Wickler was unavailable to answer questions which included why she decided to resign from the website.
The website is called Expressis Verbis - a Latin expression meaning "in clear words", or straight talk. It publishes essays, sometimes anonymous or using pseudonyms, questioning anti-Covid restrictions in Luxembourg and other countries, or suggesting non-vaccine therapies against the disease.
Some of the information is misleading or false, for example the claim that some vaccines are not effective in the elderly when scientific studies found otherwise.
The non-profit of the same name behind the website which Wickler and others established in January said it stood for "analysis of emerging authoritarianism phenomena" and "the identification, analysis and evaluation of the encroachment of the economic, legal (judicialization) and political power on the life of citizens and daily communication".
One essay published last month questions whether Luxembourg was legitimately in the grips of a pandemic last year. The essay is attributed to Thigan Tradoer. An internet search of the author found no other online presence for someone by that name.
"I am struggling to find any justification for the declaration of a pandemic, with extreme violations of our most basic rights", the writer said.
Transportation Minister François Bausch, who along with a top aide quietly picked Wickler before she was approved by the boards of Cargolux and passenger airline Luxair, said last week he continued to back her. Bausch's ministry has oversight of the state's ownership interest in both Cargolux and Luxair. Bausch and Wickler are members of Luxembourg's Green party.
The Grand Duchy's state and related banks own 30% of Cargolux. The government and state-owned bank BCEE also own 61% of Luxair, which in turn owns 35% of the air freight carrier.
Wickler has no apparent experience in aviation or in a large company, but she built a business from the family's base in Oberpallen in west-central Luxembourg that operates shopping malls and employs more than 300.
Prime Minister Xavier Bettel on Wednesday brushed away questions about whether Wickler represented views that undercut the government's urging for everyone in Luxembourg to be vaccinated as soon as they are able.
“I know Mme. Wickler as a competent person who does not mince her words, who is very direct", Bettel said during a press conference. "I think Mme. Wickler’s qualifications for this post are not being questioned. If she was part of a website, as a side activity, which might hold opinions, everyone in a democracy needs to accept that".
Though some people may have doubts about vaccines that protect against Covid-19 or whether the disease itself is serious, most people in Luxembourg have abided by the government's regulations, avoided groups where virus infections could spread and rushed to be vaccinated as drugs became available, said Bettel - who himself received the vaccine on Thursday.
"We cannot, must not, damn and stigmatise people who reject vaccinations or share a different opinion. We live in a democracy and everyone has the right to have a different opinion”, he said. "I do not demand that 100% of the population agree with our polices. What’s important to me is that a majority of people abide by the rules.”
(Additional reporting by Yannick Hansen)