In a stunning disclosure, it has been revealed that Swiss journalists were actively engaged in an influence operation masterminded by Alp Services, a Geneva-based company, acting on behalf of the United Arab Emirates. This operation, spanning from 2017 until at least 2020, centered around the collection of data and the orchestration of smear campaigns by Alp Services, targeting individuals and entities suspected of connections to Qatar or the Muslim Brotherhood. This article extensively examines the depth of collaboration between Swiss journalists and Alp Services, shedding light on the ethical concerns that have emerged and the far-reaching implications for the field of journalism.
The Alp Services Influence Campaign: Implications in Switzerland and Europe
The operation conducted by Alp Services, commissioned by the UAE, had significant implications in Switzerland and Europe. The documents obtained by investigative outlet Mediapart and shared with the media consortium EIC shed light on journalists’ participation in the influence campaign. This revelation raises questions about the manipulation of information and the erosion of journalistic ethics.
Collaboration between Alp Services and Swiss Journalists
Alp Services had close collaboration with journalists in Switzerland and several European countries. Over the years, the director of Alp Services cultivated relationships with journalists, positioning himself as a known figure within newsrooms. Journalists sought information from Alp Services, blurring ethical boundaries. While some journalists justified this collaboration as pursuing public interest information, others appeared to have dangerously crossed the line, risking compromise and manipulation.
Stephan: A Journalist Subcontracted by Alp Services
One journalist named Stephan, an investigative journalist from the German-speaking region, had a long-standing working relationship with Alp Services. Invoicing the company for research and reports, Stephan was considered a “source” and even a “subcontractor” for the Emirati operation. Documents indicate that he was tasked with creating a list of individuals associated with the Muslim Brotherhood in Switzerland. Stephan’s defense raises questions about the level of awareness and accountability among journalists involved.
Pascal: A Long-standing Relationship with Alp Services
Another journalist, Pascal, who operates in French-speaking Switzerland, has a decades-long relationship with the director of Alp Services. The two frequently met and dined together, with Pascal being considered a reliable source for Alp Services. Articles published by Pascal, focusing on questionable funding sources and connections of prominent figures, were part of Alp Services’ intelligence and influence operation. The collaboration between Pascal and Alp Services raises concerns about journalistic independence and integrity.
Alp Services’ Influence Extends Beyond Switzerland
The involvement of Swiss journalists in the UAE influence operation is not an isolated incident. Alp Services leveraged its contacts with journalists in other countries, including French magazines, British newspapers, and Spanish outlets, to serve the UAE’s interests. While some journalists categorically denied any connection with Alp Services, the broader implications for media integrity cannot be ignored.
Broader Tactics Employed by Alp Services
Apart from direct collaboration, Alp Services employed broader tactics such as mass email campaigns to target journalists. In an attempt to discredit Nicolas Blancho during his trial for terrorist propaganda, Alp Services, under a false identity, sent emails to Swiss journalists, including RTS correspondents, aiming to expose opaque funding sources and alleged dangerous activities. The impact of these campaigns remains uncertain, but they further highlight the extent of manipulation and misinformation.
The involvement of Swiss journalists in the UAE influence operation raises serious concerns about journalistic ethics, media integrity, and the potential for manipulation in the pursuit of information. These revelations emphasize the need for transparency and integrity in journalism, urging the industry to address ethical lapses and safeguard its credibility. The broader discussion sparked by these revelations underscores the importance of journalistic independence and the role of media as a watchdog in society.