In close cooperation with the media industry, OFCOM has drawn up a National Action Plan (NAP) on the safety of journalists in Switzerland. The NAP comprises nine specific measures in the areas of awareness-raising and prevention, protection and support in cases of violence and threats, and also examines the legal framework.
Journalists in Switzerland also expeience threats and violence. Many journalists experience hostility and even hate speech, especially via digial channels. In accordance with a Council of Europe resolution, OFCOM and the media industry published a National Action Plan on the Safety of Journailists on 3 May 2023 - International Press Freedom Day.
The National Action Plan is being overseen by Federal Councillor Albert Rösti. It consists of recommendations and is not legally binding. OFCOM is providing support by raising awareness, providing information, bringing the various actors together and searching for and implementing solutions. Fundamental importance is attached to the independence of the media.
The Action Plan’s main aim is to put the issue of the ‘safety of journalists’ on the public agenda and to raise awareness in society and among politicians of the challenges facing journalists and of the fundamental importance of the media as part of an effective democracy in Switzerland.
The Action Plan focuses on four specific concerns of journalists:
- Better recognition of the role and profession of journalists
- Greater protection against threats and hate speech online
- Improved physical protection:
- Better understanding of the challenges relating to abusive lawsuits against journalists (Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation, SLAPPs)
Areas of action and measures
OFCOM and the media industry have jointly drawn up the Action Plan’s measures and will implement them in cooperation with the actors concerned. As far as possible, the measures tie in with activities already being undertaken in the media industry and by OFCOM and can be implemented with existing resources.
Three areas of action and nine measures were identified.
Area of action 1: Awareness-raising and prevention
One of the Action Plan’s aims is to promote social recognition for journalism as a profession and highlight the importance of the media to effective democracy. Recognition of journalism forms the basis for the safety of journalists.
- Measure 1: Raising the awareness of young people about the value of the media (Websters)
- Measure 2: Round table with journalists and the police
- Measure 3: Collection of data on the safety of journalists
- Measure 4: Industry dialogue on the standardisation of press passes
Area of action 2: Protection and support against threats and violence
Threats and violence against journalists restrict journalistic freedom of opinion, especially when issues are addressed less critically, to a lesser extent or even not at all due to the attacks. Restricting freedom of speech and media freedom can thus also restrict the public's access to free, critical and open reporting.
- Measure 5: Industry website on the procedure for dealing with threats and violence
- Measure 6: Support from Swiss representations abroad
- Measure 7: Regulation of communication platforms
Area of action 3: Legal framework
The legal framework in Switzerland must allow media professionals to carry out their journalistic activities without fear of criminal prosecution and abusive lawsuits. The protection of sources must remain inviolable.
- Measure 8: Analysis of abusive lawsuits in Switzerland
- Measure 9: Action against abusive lawsuits at European level
Various associations, trade unions, media companies and non-governmental organisations in Switzerland have already undertaken measures to support and ensure the safety of journalists (see Chapter 2.2 of the NAP 'Existing measures').
Drawing-up of the Action Plan
In June 2021 the member states of the Council of Europe – including Switzerland – adopted a Resolution, which calls for the development of national action plans (NAPs)on the safety of journalists. The government department responsible – the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications (DETEC) – then tasked OFCOM with drawing up and coordinating the Action Plan together with the relevant stakeholders.
In an initial step, OFCOM carried out a non-representative online survey in February 2022 among journalists (as well as employers, associations and trade unions). From the 198 responses received, it emerged that 42% of the participating journalists had previously been attacked physically or psychologically. 75% of respondents thought a NAP would be useful.
Results (PDF, 242 kB, 02.09.2022)PDF Online survey of February 2022 on the safety of journalists in Switzerland
In May 2022, OFCOM organised a round table event with journalists. A broad-based discussion with industry on the areas of action and potential measures was held in September 2022. To define and finalise them in specific terms, a Sounding Board was created consisting of representatives from media associations, media training institutions, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation, the Swiss Press Council and trade unions. The Sounding Board and OFCOM met for discussions several times in the course of the work.
Members of the Sounding Board
- Corinne Bachmann, Schweizer Syndikat Medienschaffender SSM
- Martina Fehr, MAZ – die Schweizer Journalistenschule & Press Council
- Daniel Hammer, Médias Suisses, association des médias privés romands
- Simon Jacoby, Verband Medien mit Zukunft VMZ
- Marc-Henri Jobin, Centre de formation au journalisme et aux médias CFJM
- Nicolas Roulin, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation SRG SSR
- Urs Thalmann, Impressum
- Stephanie Vonarburg, Syndicom
- Philippe Zahno, Radios Régionales Romandes RRR
- Andreas Zoller, Verlegerverband Schweizer Medien VSM
OFCOM also involved the Federal Media Commission (FMEC) and consulted other relevant bodies at federal and cantonal level, namely the Federal Office of Justice (FOJ), the Federal Social Insurance Office (FSIO), the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and the Conference of Cantonal Police Commanders of Switzerland (CCPCS;
The drawing-up of this Action Plan is also in line with the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which Switzerland supports. It is also in line with Switzerland's other international activities in this area (see Chapter 4 of the NAP "International commitment").
Implementation and evaluation
The measures will be implemented gradually with the involvement of the relevant actors. The Sounding Board will continue to exist and is responsible for the implementation of the Action Plan by the media industry. OFCOM will coordinate the evaluation of the National Action Plan. In 2027, OFCOM and the Sounding Board will jointly decide whether and, if so, how the Action Plan should be continued.
- You can order the brochure "National Action Plan for the Safety of Media Professionals in Switzerland" under this link.
Last modification 03.05.2023