Switzerland lost four places in the 2022 press freedom ranking, published Tuesday by RSF, and is in 14th place. This decrease is mainly due to a methodological change, but the pandemic and economic and legal aspects also weighed in.
With this 14th place out of 180, Switzerland is now one of the countries where press freedom is considered “pretty good”, while it was one of the ten best in the ranking since 2016, Reporters reported on Tuesday. in its annual report. In general, however, Switzerland remains a safe country for journalists, where the political climate remains favourable.
However, the media landscape remains exposed to various economic developments, such as the inexorable reduction in the diversity of titles and the decline in revenue. The rejection of the media aid package vote on Feb. 13 leaves the situation unresolved, notes RSF, which is asking the government to take up the dossier.
The legislative framework also shows shortcomings, RSF argues. The proliferation of interim measures filed against the media and often obtained shows that Switzerland is not immune to so-called ‘gag’ proceedings.
A tightening of these measures, approved last year by the Council of State and early this year by a National Committee, ‘sends the wrong signal’. Likewise, the “Swiss Secrets” case highlighted threats to freedom of information through criminal law provisions on banking secrecy.
In the context of the health crisis, the year 2021 was also marked by a sudden increase in verbal and even physical attacks against media representatives, especially on the sidelines of demonstrations by opponents of health measures. Their size has even surprised news professionals, notes RSF.
On the occasion of the 20th edition of its world ranking, RSF has changed its methodology, which now takes into account five new indicators: political context, legal framework, economic context, socio-cultural context and security. Rank comparisons between 2021 and 2022 should therefore be treated with caution, RSF explains. This new methodology has mainly had an impact on the ranking of Switzerland.
Overall, the ranking reveals a double polarization, RSF says. In democratic societies, the evolution of Fox News-style opinion media and the trivialization of disinformation circuits, enhanced by social networks, are increasing divisiveness.
At the international level, the asymmetry between open societies and despotic countries, which control their media and wage propaganda wars, weakens democracies. The invasion of Ukraine (106th in the ranking) by Russia (155th) is symbolic of the phenomenon, as it was prepared by a propaganda war, RSF explains.
China (175th) has used its legislative arsenal to curtail and cut off its population from the rest of the world, especially that of Hong Kong (148th), which is falling in the rankings. The logic of clashes between ‘blocks’ becomes stronger, as between India (150th) and Pakistan (157th). In the Middle East, the lack of press freedom continues to mark the conflict between Israel (86th), Palestine (170th) and the Arab countries.
In democratic countries, media polarization reinforces and maintains internal divisions, for example in the United States (42nd). The resurgence of social and political tensions is accelerated by social networks and new opinion media, especially in France (26th). In some ‘illiberal democracies’, the repression of the independent press is also a factor of intense polarization.
Scandinavian countries still in the lead
A record 28 countries are in what is considered ‘very serious’. Twelve countries including Belarus (153) and Russia are on this red list of the ranking. Also among the most repressive countries for the press are China, Burma (176th), Turkmenistan (177th), Iran (178th) and Eritrea (179th). North Korea (180th) forms the rear.
Conversely, the podium is taken by Norway (1st), Denmark (2nd) and Sweden (3rd). The three Nordic countries remain the democratic model where freedom of expression flourishes most.