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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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18 Conclusion 290

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290 18 Conclusion 18.1 Open borders for the media In his memoirs, Sir Ralf Dahrendorf stated that “Freedom flourishes in a world with open borders” (Dahrendorf 2002, p.15), adding that a world without borders is a desert, whereas a world with closed borders is a prison. Another voice raised in favour of open borders, in corroboration of Dahrendorf’s paradox, was that of Karl Schmid, Professor of German Language and Literature at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, of which he was also Rec- tor. Schmid was both a Germanist and a highly respected Swiss and European citizen – an enlightener in the original sense of the English word “Enlightenment”. In 1964, he published a book with the re- sounding title of Unbehagen im Kleinstaat (Unease in a Small State) (Schmid 1998, p.109ff.). In this work Schmid outlined his ideal pic- ture of Switzerland as “a house built strong enough to open the doors to its neighbours, with expansive windows on the world. A small country survives by being both strong and open.” If we now transpose this image to the media, Schmid would no doubt have urged journalists to have both a firm view on a specific topic and an understanding for the opposite point of view. Furthermore, he would have asked that they clarify and differentiate, report accu- rately, and formulate their opinions clearly and boldly (Schneebeli 1998). “They dreamt of a better world” is what is often said today about the 18th Century exponents of the...

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