Switzerland falls out of the top 10 for press freedom in 2022

Switzerland falls out of the top 10 for press freedom in 2022

Switzerland has dropped out of the top 10 in the latest Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). It comes as a United Nations rapporteur on the press accused Switzerland’s banking laws of throttling media freedom in the country.

Switzerland in the Press Freedom Index 2022

The Press Freedom Index assess the state of journalism in various nations around the world, analysing polarisation, the spread of misinformation and state control or manipulation of media outlets. Using surveys by journalists, each country is ranked by the political context in the nation, the legal framework protecting journalistic work, the economic and socio-cultural context and whether journalists’ safety can be guaranteed.

In this year's edition, Switzerland fell from 10th place to 14th with a score of 89,45, the first time the alpine nation has left the top 10 in six years. This places Switzerland in the list of countries with “satisfactory” press freedom and joined others like Germany and the Netherlands, which also dropped significantly in the ranking.

The 2022 report saw Norway take the top spot with a score of 93,28, with fellow Scandinavian nations Denmark and Sweden rounding out the top three. Occupying the bottom of the ranking were Iran, Eritrea, and North Korea. 

Media diversity and economy are main issues in Switzerland

RSF was quick to stress that the fall in the ranking for Switzerland was mainly due to a change in methodology. In particular, the change to include economic factors and media diversity severely impacted Switzerland’s score. Currently, a significant number of the largest national and local newspapers in Zurich, Geneva, Lausanne, Bern and Basel are all run by the TX or Tamedia group, which had an impact on the diversity score.

In response to the ranking, the Association of Swiss Journalists said that they regretted the lower score and wanted to work to stop the downward trend. RSF concluded that press freedom in Switzerland remains “rather good”, as it is still safe and politically stable. 

UN condemns Switzerland for banking secrecy laws

The ranking comes amid calls from the UN to reform Swiss secrecy law to benefit the press. On Tuesday, the special UN rapporteur for freedom of the press, Irene Khan, wrote a letter to the president of Switzerland, Ignazio Cassis, expressing her deep concern over how the country handles press freedom when it comes to banking details and secrets.

The move was sparked by the Suisse Secrets scandal in February 2022, which saw the records of Swiss banks leaked, revealing clients ranging from dictators to criminals. Despite the gravitas of the story, and its intrinsic connection to Switzerland, Article 47 of the Swiss Banking Act prevented press organisations in Switzerland like Tamedia from publishing or helping in the initial investigation.

UN rapporteur compares Switzerland to an authoritarian state

Khan said that she “fears” the Banking Act contradicts the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Civil Pact. She argued that the law violates the freedom of the press and she will “critically address the situation surrounding banking secrecy in Switzerland," in her report due to be published in June. “The Swiss banking law is an example of the criminalisation of journalism. That's usually a problem in authoritarian states," she said.

In response, the government said that freedom of the media was important for the rule of law and democracy. This week, parliament is set to have a special session to discuss the law, with the Social Democratic Party and the Greens calling for the Banking Act to be amended to make journalists exempt from the rule.

Jan de Boer


Jan de Boer

Editor for Switzerland at IamExpat Media. Jan studied History at the University of York and Broadcast Journalism at the University of Sheffield. Though born in York, Jan has lived most...

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