Broad Media Alliance Warns of Restrictions on Freedom of the Press

A broad media alliance sees press freedom in Switzerland in danger. It is calling on the National Council to refrain from tightening the Code of Civil Procedure in the special session, which provides for "measures against the media". This revision had been proposed by the Council of States.

Breite Medienallianz warnt vor Einschränkung der Pressefreiheit
(Photo: Unsplash)Me

A historically broad alliance of the media industry agrees that press freedom in Switzerland is a particularly important and especially protected asset, warns the Swiss Media Association on the occasion of International Press Freedom Day on May 3.

However, this good is at least partially in danger. The Alliance therefore calls on the National Council to refrain from tightening the Code of Civil Procedure, Article 266 "Measures against the media", at the upcoming special session on May 10.

The Council of States and both legal commissions, RK-N and RK-S, propose in the revision of the CCP in Art. 266 ("Measures against media") to massively lower the hurdle for precautionary measures against media reports. A violation of rights by editorial reporting should no longer have to cause "a particularly serious disadvantage" but only "a serious disadvantage" to enable judicial measures against publication.

Deleting the word "especially" would have an enormous impact on court practice and thus have serious negative consequences for the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of the media in Switzerland. At the end, the Alliance sent a letter to the National Council asking it to follow the minority, and thus the Federal Council, on Art. 266, lit. a.

Today, any person could demand in court that editorial articles not be published if they were directly affected by them. This requires a qualified disadvantage for the courts to pronounce a superprovisional measure. The existing wording is deliberately chosen in the current, functioning legislation to protect journalistic reporting from excessive and disproportionate interference.


Freedom of the media is an important pillar of democracy

Now, such measures would be easy to obtain through the courts. The amendment would therefore open the floodgates to the rash stopping of unpopular, critical research. This would affect all media professionals in Switzerland. This threat to media freedom is highly problematic and also has consequences for the freedom of opinion and expression - also recognized by the European Convention on Human Rights in Article 10 - as a cornerstone of Swiss democracy.

The Commission's proposed amendment breaks a balance that was very carefully worked out at the time by two successive groups of experts - and it does so without any examination by the administration or by experts. In view of the prevailing reporting in Switzerland, there is no reason to demand such a restriction of media freedom: Media reports are already subject to clear limits under the existing legal framework, and those affected can defend themselves. The media industry also has functioning self-regulatory mechanisms - such as the Swiss Press Council or the "Declaration of the Duties and Rights of Journalists. (sda).

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