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No sign of anti-Semitism in Swiss media reporting

The Swiss media gets good marks for its reporting on the Middle East swissinfo.ch

Switzerland’s German-speaking media is often guarded when it comes to reporting on the Middle East, according to a study.

This content was published on March 26, 2004 - 08:14

The report published by the University of Zurich found that the reporting in the Swiss media was generally of an objective and sensitive nature.

The study analysed ten newspapers and three electronic media to find out whether reporting about Israel and the Occupied Territories was in any way anti-Semitic.

swissinfo spoke to Georg Kreis, the president of the Federal Commission against Racism, about the objectivity of the Swiss media's reporting.

swissinfo: Is there any evidence of anti-Semitism within the German-speaking media in Switzerland?

Georg Kreis: The Swiss media is very careful when it comes to dealing with information and reports that could offend the Jewish community. It is aware of the fact that it could be seen as being biased.

Sometimes it almost creates a taboo and I am not sure whether that’s a good thing.

swissinfo: Isn’t there the danger that any critical look at Israeli politics could be interpreted as being anti-Semitic?

G.K.: That’s right, but it is important that the media is critical and objective and is not influenced by any preconceptions. In general the current situation is not especially alarming. Being cautious does not necessarily mean that the media cannot be critical.

swissinfo: But you cannot be too careful – the job of a journalist is to present an objective argument and criticism from both sides.

G.K.: Yes, but on the other hand journalists do not need to behave like vicious dogs all the time either.

swissinfo: The study was only conducted in the German-speaking part of the country, so are we really getting a representative picture? Shouldn’t we have a nationwide study to differentiate between the French- and the German-speaking parts of the country?

G.K.: That’s true, especially for national issues. But is a critical look at Israeli politics really a national Swiss issue?

As the president of Switzerland's anti-racism commission, I have noticed that such issues are often differently received in the German- and French-speaking parts of the country.

Let’s take the issue of wearing a headscarf, which was differently received in the German- and French-speaking parts of the country. I think it would be good to conduct a study on the media in the French-speaking part, too.

The picture would probably be very different as the French-language media is more influenced by the press in France, which has a bigger representation of Muslims.

swissinfo: Can you actually report on anti-Semitism without looking at Islam?

G.K.: In Switzerland these two issues are actually linked because minorities of both groups live here.

Every issue concerning minorities should be of interest of any minority.

The Christian majority in this country is, for example, more detached from the Muslim minority than it is from the Jewish minority.

However, the claim by the militant Jewish minority that most Swiss are blind to the dangers Islamic fundamentalists pose to Israel is not true. The Swiss public is well aware of the danger.

swissinfo: So, the study basically says there is not really much of an issue in terms of anti-Semitism in the German-speaking press, but it’s important to shed light on the issue every once in a while.

G.K.: That’s right and that’s what we are doing. The official Jewish organisation has already set up an institution to monitor the press. However, we need an independent official institutional body that can do that.

swissinfo-interview: Jonathan Summerton

In brief

The University of Zurich conducted the study on anti-Semitism in the Swiss media between December 2002 and December 2003.

The report also analysed some of the news programmes of Swiss television and Swiss radio.

In 2003 a European report found that anti-Semitism was not only a phenomenon in radical right-wing circles but was also prevalent in the Islamic community.

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