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Switzerland comes 15th in press freedom ranking

Switzerland's media aren't as independent as they would like to be

(swissinfo.ch)

Switzerland has been ranked 15th in a new worldwide index which compares press freedom, putting it on the same level as Costa Rica.

The survey said Swiss journalists were often under pressure to reveal their sources, and that editors faced demands by advertisers not to disclose information.

The index of 139 countries ranked Switzerland well below Scandinavian countries but ahead of other democracies such as the United States.

Finland scooped first place in the index, which was compiled by Reporters without Borders, a non-governmental organisation which monitors the rights and treatment of journalists around the world.

The countries were assessed according to 50 criteria such as whether journalists faced pressure to reveal their sources and what restrictions were placed on them by the state.

"The Swiss result shouldn't really come as a surprise and it still scored high in the overall rankings," George Gordon Lenox, secretary general of the Swiss section of Reporters without Borders, told swissinfo.

"But it's true that there is a very strong tradition of press freedom in north European countries."

Revealing sources

Lenox said Switzerland's score was dragged down by the "difficulties for foreign journalists to obtain a visa to come to Switzerland, or journalists being asked to reveal their sources".

He added that there had been cases where journalists' telephone lines had been tapped, and he said newspaper editors should not "bow to pressure by advertisers to leave out certain information from their newspapers".

Lenox said it was important to make clear Switzerland was good example for many other countries and that it had outperformed some nations where press freedom was firmly enshrined in the constitution, such as the US which ranked 17th.

"There have been problems in the US, especially since September 11," Lenox explained. "The Internet is being looked at very closely by the US authorities and there are pressures on journalists to do a kind of self-censorship on issues relating to terrorism."

The situation was poor in Africa and Latin America but the worst of all in Asia, which contained the five worst offenders: North Korea, China, Burma, Turkmenistan and Bhutan.

swissinfo, Billi Bierling and Vanessa Mock

Key facts

The main criticism levelled at Switzerland was that journalists often faced pressure to reveal their sources.
Foreign journalists were often refused visas.
Reporters without Borders urged editors not to bow to pressure by advertisers.
Switzerland scored lower than most other European countries.
But it did better than the United States, which was criticised for its attitude to reporting about terrorism.

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