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Switzerland

Switzerland - Annual Report 2008
Area: 41,285 sq.km
Population: 7,508,739
Languages: German, French, Italian
Head of state: President Micheline Calmy-Rey

The country was 11th in the 2007 Reporters Without Borders worldwide press freedom index. However this good ranking is marred by article 293 of the criminal law about official secrets and the power of military courts to try journalists and other civilians for violating military secrecy.

The editor of the Zurich weekly SonntagsBlick, Christopher Grenacher, and two of his journalists, Sandro Brotz and Beat Jost, were accused on 6 February 2007 of violating military secrets by a military court under article 106 of the military criminal law. The paper had reproduced on 8 January a fax from the Egyptian foreign ministry to the Egyptian embassy in London mentioning the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe. The prosecution asked for Grenacher to be fined €4,000 and Brotz and Jost €1,200 each. But the court acquitted them on 13 April and even awarded them €12,000 each in damages.

The European Court of Human Rights supported Switzerland’s criminal law article 293 about official secrets on 10 December, saying the government’s right to keep diplomatic documents secret sometimes overrode the right to freedom of expression.

The court had supported journalist Martin Stoll in April 2006 for publishing two articles in January 1997 containing extracts of a confidential report by the Swiss ambassador to the United States about ongoing negotiations between Switzerland and the World Jewish Congress over World War Two Jewish assets in Swiss banks. It said Switzerland had violated article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on freedom of expression by fining him €800 in 1999. The reversal of this ruling makes it more difficult to challenge article 293.




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Introduction Europe and the former USSR - Annual Report 2008
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Preface : Between impotence, cowardice and duplicity
Introduction : Press freedom faces dangerous elections and an olympic summer in 2008
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