The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, condemned the Swiss military for its using legal proceedings to threaten and intimidate journalists who uncovered proof of secret transfers and prisons used by US agents in Europe.
On 17 April, Sandro Brotz, Beat Jost and Cristoph Grenacher, journalists from newspaper Sonntags-Blick, will face a military court on charges stemming from their publication of a document from the Swiss Foreign Secret Service that revealed the existence of secret prisons run by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and secret transport of CIA prisoners in Europe.
The IFJ is calling on the military court to drop its charges against the journalists and for the case to be moved to the civilian court system.
“We think that journalists, as civilians, should be brought to a civil court,” said EFJ Chair Arne König. “It is ironic that in the host country of the Geneva Convention, journalists are being charged by a military court for reporting on human rights abuses. This is not the first attempt to intimidate investigative journalists in Switzerland and keep them from publishing anything that the government would rather keep secret.”
The EFJ is concerned that Swiss military justice is used regularly to charge civilians, especially media workers who have critically reported about procedures in the defense department (VBS) and in the army. The special status of the Swiss military justice system and its ability to try civilians is unique in Europe and also contravenes the United Nations Human Rights Pact, which was ratified by Switzerland five years ago.
Several journalists were have been fined up to 700 Swiss francs by military courts in recent years due to critical articles that they published and in 2006 a journalist was condemned to 20 days in jail by a military court after he reported on a bunker’s construction weakness.
The EFJ and IFJ are calling on the Swiss authorities to stop using their military courts to settle press cases and to review its current legal system and put in line with international legal standards, where civilians are not judged by military courts in time of peace.
A special website has been set up by the “Committee for Free Media instead of Military Court”: http://www.schlapphut.ch.
For more information contact the EFJ at 32 2 235 2200
The EFJ represents over 260.000 journalists in more than 40 countries