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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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10 Education and training in journalism 156

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156 10 Education and training in journalism 10.1 Specialised professional training as a core element The quality of journalism naturally depends mainly on those pro- ducing it, namely journalists. Training of media workers is an im- portant basis to enable journalism to hold its own under increasingly difficult conditions: compared with twenty or thirty years ago, to- day’s journalists are exposed to a positive deluge of information. The Internet has contributed in no small measure to the amount of input confronting journalists compared to even a few years ago. At the same time, the Internet creates a gap between the original source and the recipients which often cannot be bridged. In other words, reports, news, statements and so on are difficult to verify. Danger looms from another direction, too, for the “professional code” of journalism234: the distinctions between public relations and journal- ism are becoming increasingly fuzzy235, not least because of the in- creased economic pressure being brought to bear on media compa- nies. Take, for example, the tourism pages in newspapers and magazines. Which media organisation in Switzerland can afford the luxury these days of bearing the cost of an expensive trip in order to retain complete independence vis-à-vis a travel agency, a hotel or a tourism authority? The same applies to motoring supplements, property pages and similar contents of newspapers and magazines236. Political and business reporters also face challenges which, up until a generation ago, were largely unknown. Political parties and compa- nies – as well as authorities...

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