While Switzerland, on the whole, offers a very safe and protective environment for reporters, journalism has recently been weakened, mostly due to the rejection, in a referendum, of an increase in media subsidies and an unprecedented level of violence by demonstrators protesting public health measures.
The Swiss media landscape is marked by a strong public broadcasting network, SR-SRG, and a traditionally very diverse print media sector. But the latter has been affected, for the past several years, by a strong concentration of ownership linked to a digital transformation. In French-speaking Switzerland, the leading papers are 24 heures, Tribune de Genève, Le Temps, and La Liberté. In German-speaking Switzerland, the leaders are Blick, Tages-Anzeiger, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, and Basler Zeitung.
Swiss journalists are sheltered from political pressure despite the proximity maintained by some media with certain political parties. Public service broadcasting, in particular, has strong safeguards against political interference in programming.
While journalists work in a legal and regulatory environment that is generallyl respectful of press freedom, some laws are problematic. In 2022, the federal parliament approved a tightening of “provisional measures” that allow a judge to block the publication of journalistic content. Furthermore, discussions are taking place to try to correct the effects of a law – unique to Switzerland – penalising the dissemination by the media of information covered by banking secrecy. This law had dissuaded the Swiss media from participating in SwissLeaks.
The traditionally highly diverse Swiss press has seen a strong increase in ownership concentration in recent years. This trend is felt most notably in the local press, where several publications have disappeared or have been bought by large press groups. While parliament approved a major increase of public subsidies to the media, public opinion on this decision was mixed and the proposal was rejected in a referendum.
Actions by some social movements can strengthen cultural trends that encourage forms of censorship or self-censorship. For example, in 2021, anti-racist, feminist and LGBTQ+ activists called for some media outlets to withdraw content, especially of a satirical nature. In one case, such demands allegedly led to material damage to a media outlet’s company cars in an attempt at intimidation.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, journalists were often confronted by activists opposed to public health measures. This trend began in the fall of 2020. In some cases, these challenges took the form of insults, threats, and even physical assaults on journalists.