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Campaign targets online child pornography

Viewing child pornography on the internet is not against Swiss law

(Keystone)

The Swiss authorities have launched a campaign to stop the illegal downloading of child pornography from the internet.

This comes as figures show that over half of the 1,550 Swiss investigated over the past three years for receiving and passing on child pornography have been convicted.

The "Stop child pornography on the internet" campaign was launched on Thursday by the federal police and the Swiss Crime Prevention Centre.

It is the latest in a series of coordinated efforts by Swiss police to tackle the issue.

"The aim of the campaign is to generate awareness in the population that child pornography is... a real crime," Martin Boess, the director of the centre, told swissinfo.

"We want to tell people who are looking at child pornography that they can be prosecuted, that they can end up in jail and that they have to pay fines."

Boess says they are also targeting those who know of others who look at child pornography.

"They should not look away but tell them that they have a problem and that they have to do something and get help," he said.

Swiss law

The Swiss Crime Prevention Centre has prepared the three-year campaign for the Swiss police in the various cantons.

Brochures explain how people get into child pornography and what can be done to avoid becoming dependent on it. They also contain advice on protecting children when they are online, such as in chatrooms.

"We have been trying to find out why a man or woman looks at online child pornography and we have discovered that hardly any of them know the laws regarding child pornography on the internet," Boess said.

It is not illegal to look at child pornography in Switzerland – although the police would like to change this. It is however illegal to download, possess and distribute it.

Boess says the centre is also working with the police to educate schools, through materials for teachers, and to inform parents by helping them with internet filter programmes.

Previous operations

As a result of two national police operations, more than half of the 1,550 Swiss suspected of receiving and passing on pornographic material involving children through file-sharing programmes have been sentenced.

In September 2004, almost 400 people were investigated during an operation codenamed Falcon. Sixty-eight per cent of them were convicted.

Falcon was preceded in September 2002 by operation Genesis - the biggest operation of its kind so far in Switzerland - in which 1,092 people were questioned and 2,000 computers and 35,000 data storage units seized.

Of the 893 cases in operation Genesis which were then investigated, 47 per cent resulted in criminal convictions ranging from eight months' prison to fines of SFr25,000 ($20,200).

Starting point

"Those campaigns were the starting point for this campaign," says Boess. However, he admits that the raids and investigations have put a lot of pressure on the police.

"We would like to start earlier, telling people they are not free to look at child pornography on the internet," he said.

Roberta Vanina, from the Federal Police Office's child abuse unit, told the French-language newspaper 24heures that the legal and police authorities had made progress and increased cooperation since operation Genesis.

"Cantonal police must be convinced that the entire operation – search, interrogation, material analysis – will remain under their command. We can save them a lot of time by centralising certain procedures," she said.

"In this line of work, time is against the investigators."

swissinfo, Thomas Stephens

In brief

The Swiss Crime Prevention Centre has launched a campaign: "Stop child pornography on the internet".

As a result of police operations over the past three years, 1,550 people have been investigated on suspicion of receiving and passing on pornographic material involving children. Of those, over half have been convicted.

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Key facts

Swiss law does not forbid the viewing of child pornography on the internet but punishes the downloading of images with up to one year in prison and/or a fine.
It is illegal to be in possession of child pornography and the sale of pornographic images of children can result in a prison sentence of up to three years.

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