SBB must hang poster critical of Israel in Zurich main station

At the behest of the Federal Administrative Court, SBB must put up a poster in Zurich's main railway station that is critical of Israel. According to the court, SBB violated freedom of expression with its ban.

The poster had initially been put up in several places at the main station by the Allgemeine Plakatgesellschaft (APG) in March 2009 on behalf of a member of the Palestine Solidarity campaign. After three days, SBB had it removed after being made aware of the political content.

Appeal to the Federal Supreme Court possible

The poster is directed against Israel's settlement policy and contains the sentence "Israel: built by force on Palestinian soil" and the call "Injustice demands resistance!". The Federal Administrative Court has now upheld the appeal lodged by the client against SBB's decision.

SBB is instructed to approve the controversial poster display. The decision can still be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court within 30 days. In their ruling, the judges in Bern come to the conclusion that SBB has violated freedom of expression with its ban.

General ban goes too far

The Federal Railways are bound to respect fundamental rights when third parties use the station walls. SBB had justified its refusal with an internal regulation according to which advertisements and messages "on controversial foreign policy topics are excluded for all media".

According to the ruling, this general ban goes too far. Train stations with their many passers-by represent an important space for the exchange of opinions. The provision in question would prevent any expression of opinion relating to foreign countries.

According to the court, a milder but equally suitable measure would be a permit requirement for expressions of opinion that could pose a direct and serious threat to public safety or proper rail traffic. This was not the case with the controversial poster.

No call for violence

It is discreetly designed and contains neither eye-catching nor shocking images. The rather militant tone of the text cannot be seen as a call for violence or other illegal acts. Resistance does not automatically mean violence and there is no call for specific actions.

The fact that the poster has been up for three days without any damage to property or demonstrations shows that it does not pose a serious threat to safety and order. Nor does it hinder the circulation of station users or otherwise disrupt rail operations. (SDA)


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