Right-wing lawmakers pursue legal complaint against editor
Two right-wing lawmakers are asking state prosecutors to investigate what remarks a daily newspaper's editor-in-chief made on radio criticising their stance on vaccination, their party said on Thursday.
Alternative Democratic Reform Party deputies Fernand Kartheiser and Fred Keup filed the complaint with the prosecutor's office after Tageblatt editor Dhiraj Sabharwal described the two as "deadly dangerous" (doudgeféierlech) and as "lowly dirtbags" (nidderträchteg Knaschtsäck).
Sabharwal said on Sunday during an appearance on the RTL Press Club radio program that the lawmakers were displaying "opportunism" in their closeness to vaccine-skeptic and Covid-deniers.
"ADR is committed without restriction on the freedom of the press. Distinguished from this, however, are personal insolence and insults. In this case, a limit has been overstepped to an unacceptable extent", the party said in a statement.
Sabharwal did not immediately respond to an email to the Tageblatt offices seeking comment on Friday.
The Tageblatt has reported that it was threatened previously with defamation lawsuits by vaccine skeptics Benoit Ochs and Sacha Borsellini and media personality Bas Schagen over articles the newspaper published portraying some of Luxembourg's most prominent opponents of the government's Covid-fighting policies.
Another ADR lawmaker, Roy Reding, was condemned by the journalist association ALJP for sharing a Tageblatt journalist's contact in an online group of anti-vaxxers, leading to harassment and threats against the journalist.
Two weeks ago, Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and Justice Minister Sam Tanson said they were filing complaints over a vaccine-skeptic's Tweet that named them and mentioned hanging as the penalty for Nazi torturers found guilty after World War II.
Luxembourg's RTL and the Lëtzebuerger Journal also faced court last year for publishing a letter-to-the-editor by lawyer Gaston Vogel, whose language was then accused of inciting hatred. Vogel and the media outlets were acquitted, but the prosecution is appealing the decision.
Luxembourg dropped three places to 20th in the most recent annual report on press freedom by the group Reporters Without Borders. Since the start of Bettel's time in office in 2013, Luxembourg has dropped from 4th to 20th in the press freedom index, with lack of government transparency and business influence being cited as factors.