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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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9 Media Organisations and Journalists’ Associations 139


139 9 Media Organisations and Journalists’ Associations 9.1 An unprotected area In Switzerland, the job title “journalist” is not protected. Basically, this means that anyone who communicates information to the public in the editorial section of a medium (by means of articles, photo- graphs, sound recordings or films) can call themselves a journalist. Even the professional associations and trade unions, whose aim it is to protect the interests of journalists, have come to terms with this fact, as is quite clear from the description of the profession given in the latest Collective Agreement, which dates from 2000195: Regardless of the actual job description and the legal relationship with the media enterprise concerned, a journalist is considered to be anyone who is principally employed in contributing or editing material des- tined for the editorial section of media products and who reports to the editor in chief. This definition implies that – unlike in other professions – people can only call themselves journalists if they are actually practising their profession. In other words: a person who temporarily or per- manently ceases to contribute material to the editorial section of a media product loses the right to call him- or herself a journalist. The journalists’ associations also diverge from the practice in other pro- fessions in that, with this definition, they have more or less given employers a free hand to determine who can be called a journalist. It follows that a publishing company can then decide who merits a place in its editorial team...

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