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The Invisible Scissors

Media Freedom and Censorship in Switzerland

Marc Höchli

A watchdog, a genuine fourth estate working in the service of a free and liberal democracy, diverse and discursive: this is what we expect of the media. This is how most of the media present themselves: altruistic, serving the interests of res publica and public opinion and promoting democratic discourse. And this is how most Swiss people see their media.
Yet, does the shining image correspond to reality? Or are the much-praised journalistic Elysium of Switzerland and the diversity and quality of the Swiss media tarnished? And to what extent is freedom of the media guaranteed?
This research into the mass media of Switzerland highlights the current threats to the freedom of the media and identifies the scissors of censorship. It scrutinizes the power of advertising, the battle for market share, the infiltration of PR agencies into editorial offices, the quality of journalistic training, self-censorship and infotainment as the supreme credo. The findings show that freedom of the media in Switzerland is severely jeopardised.


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8 The Secretiveness of the Military 127


127 8 The Secretiveness of the Military 8.1 Under special protection As one of the smallest countries in Europe, for a long time Switzer- land had the largest army of the continent – in terms of manpower. This militia, in which every male citizen has to serve, and which can be mobilised within 48 hours, was regarded as a “sacred cow” until the end of the 1980s. As an indispensable part of Swiss self-esteem the army was as important as, for example, the Federal Parliament in Bern or the traditional Swiss farming community. The Swiss army was trained to defend the country against external foes (mainly seen as being in the East), as well as fighting the enemy within, against which it was even prepared to use weapons, as shown by the exam- ple of the national strike in 1918168. An army that is ready to defend should, however, enjoy the protec- tion of the law and should equally be subject to its rules – particu- larly in a democratic society like Switzerland. That civil standards are insufficient for dealing with military issues is, however, a wide- spread doctrine, especially where national security169 or state secu- rity170 is involved. This doctrine, though, has recently become a sub- ject of dispute in Switzerland, with the most recent political debate on military criminal law taking place in the summer session of the National Council in 2006. Here, military legal authority was vindi- cated by a large majority and, contrary to the view of the...

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