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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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17 The Failure of Media Journalism 275

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275 17 The Failure of Media Journalism 17.1 A blind spot Media researcher Stephan Russ-Mohl, who directs the European Journalism Observatory in Lugano, does not mince words when it comes to the importance of media journalism to the media them- selves: “Whoever thinks that media journalism is superfluous is in fact helping to create a situation where journalism as a whole could become superfluous” (Russ-Mohl 2004). What actually prompted Russ-Mohl to make these controversial remarks was a recent devel- opment that has steadily pervaded all the print media in Switzerland: the disappearance of the media pages.424 This is apparent in maga- zines as well as in daily, weekly or weekend newspapers: nowadays media topics are only dealt with sporadically and selectively. Instead of background reports, for example on developments in the media scene or the embedding of communicative processes within their social dimension, what we tend to see nowadays are typical con- sumer-oriented articles about the latest iPods, ADSL technology or the resolution of mobile telephone photography. Regular public discussion of substantial media topics in the print media has become extremely rare. What is missing in the print media cannot be found on television either. As early as the mid 1980s, the major Swiss television station SF DRS scrapped the programme Medienkritik, which analysed developments and new phenomena in the media. Today, SF DRS operates without any form of reflection at all on the role of the me- dia, and naturally the private stations do not bother themselves with something...

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