Swiss newspaper apologises for ‘inappropriate’ headline about new WTO Director-General

A Swiss newspaper has apologised for publishing an offensive headline about new World Trade Organisation (WTO) chief Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

Okonjo-Iweala was the first woman and first African woman to be appointed as the Director-General of the WTO.

But the regional daily Aargauer Zeitung caused outrage by headlining that “this grandmother will be the new chief of the WTO”.

The controversial report was published on February 9, as well as in two other newspapers of the same group, CH Media, and on their websites.

On Friday, the newspaper apologised for the “inappropriate and unsuitable” headline.

“The title sparked [an] angry reaction from readers,” read a statement, signed by the editor in charge of international news. “We apologise for this editorial mistake,” they added.

The newspaper also stated that the author of the article, based in Geneva, did not write the headline and was “not in any way responsible”.

Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala thanked those who had petitioned against the headline in a tweet, just a few hours before she officially took up her new post.

“I’m thankful to all my sisters, UN Women Leaders, and the 124 Ambassadors in Geneva who signed the petition on calling out the racist and sexist remarks in this newspaper.”

“It is important and timely that they’ve apologised,” she added.

“We need to call out this behaviour when it happens,” she also tweeted, stressing that it was precisely this kind of stereotyping that she denounces in a recent book.

Okonjo-Iweala was the former Nigerian minister of finance and said her first priority as WTO Director-General will be addressing the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and to “implement the policy responses we need to get the global economy going again.”

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