When it comes to freedom of the press, Switzerland ranks high. But financial problems in the Swiss media industry could spell trouble, warns a journalism NGO.
The comments come amid recent changes to the media landscape in Switzerland, including the closure of several newspapers.
Switzerland has placed 6th in the 2019 World Press Freedom Indexexternal link, published by international journalism group Reporters Without Borders (RSF)external link on Thursday. The ranking is based on the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries.
Warnings for Switzerland's media landscape
However, the group described the economic situation of the Swiss media as dangerous, listing problems like shrinking newsrooms, dwindling resources for investigative journalism, less diversity in content and inadequate coverage of local events – all of which could pose a risk to critical and independent journalism.
RSF Switzerland is calling for a more solid political debate on boosting media – citing the March 2018 vote not to abolish the licencing fee as proof that the Swiss population is committed to high-quality public radio and television. [swissinfo.ch belongs to the national public broadcaster.]
Sector is facing cuts, legal proceedings
The journalism group also mentioned restructuring at the Swiss News Agency, the death of newspaper Le Matin and last year’s 200 job cuts at CH Media, which dropped two more papers last month. In addition, it expressed concern about proceedings against the media launched by politicians in cantons Vaud and Geneva.
Troubles aside, Switzerland is among just 15 nations – or 8% – with a “good” situation in terms of press freedom.
The situation in Europe
Only five nations out-ranked Switzerland: Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark – which knocked Switzerland down a notch. According to RSF Switzerlandexternal link, this was “not significant” as the two countries had been so close in recent years.
Since the last ranking, neighbouring or nearby countries like Germany, Austria and Luxembourg have gone from “good” down to “satisfactory”.
The situation worldwide
Meanwhile, the United States, Chile and Romania have gone from “satisfactory” to “problematic”. Iraq has been upgraded from “very serious” to “difficult”.
Japan (67), Brazil (105), Russia (149) and Cuba (169) all received poor marks, along with Syria (174). At the very bottom of the ranking were China (177), Eritrea (178), North Korea (179) and Turkmenistan (180).
The rankings are based on an online questionnaire available in 20 languages, plus expert evaluations and data on abuses and violence against journalists in each country.
Reporter Without Borders, which has conducted the ranking since 2002, notes that it is not an indication of journalistic quality. The full methodology is available onlineexternal link.