Support to “Information in Danger” Appeal by Impressum, Switzerland

Informing is in danger. the Press less and less fulfils its informative mission and its role to give a critical approach of the events to the benefit of entertainment. Worried about this drift, a group of journalists of the French part of Switzerland has called the entire profession in its region to react. impressum – the Swiss journalists called on the EFJ to officially give its full support to this appeal.

About fifty Swiss journalists have already supported the “information in danger” call. From March 15, 2006 on, a short version of this paper was distributed among the editorial staffs and journalists are invited to sign it, also in the radio and television.

The Annual Meeting of the EFJ, Meeting in Bled (Slovenia) on 7-9 April 2006, supports the following Appeal from Swiss Journalists:

Informing in danger

The Press less and less fulfils its informative mission and its role to give a critical approach of the events to the benefit of entertainment. However, an independent and credible information is a fundamental right of each citizen as well as a duty for the journalists and press owners.

The fundamental mission of our work, informing the public, is in serious danger.

The answer of press owners to the increasing weakness of the advertising market passes through the impoverishment of the editorial parts and this to the benefit of the advertisers and in the name of the economical survival of the newspapers. Informing is no longer the main objective. Strategies of seduction and of uniform communication are too often beating up the information, or trying to merge with it. A newspaper has become a “product”, but are news items products as any other?

The strongest symbol of this drift is the radical transformation of the position of chief editor, which has reversed: instead of representing the editorial staff in front of the press owner, he has become the representative of this owner towards the journalists. He more often takes himself care of marketing issues, gives in to external pressures and puts the editorial independence in danger. He is no longer a fence against the degradation of working conditions – sometimes he even supports it.

The fact is, this drift is going faster, taking with it a loss of professional marks and deteriorating the position of journalists. Fewer journalists, the absence of training, particularly for trainees, more tasks to be done by the same person, lead inevitably to inaccuracies: unverified sources, uncorrected texts, errors in the facts that harm the image of the press. Less money for investigations and reports also means poorer information. Yet a piece of information with added value has a price.

The situation has reached a critical point. Nowadays, advisers take part in the editorial meetings. Journalists have to sign articles of convenience and, even worse, some of them do not realize that they are doing some compromises. Remaining silent does not help our profession and complaining is not enough any more. It is urgent to discuss because the credibility of our work and the respect of our readers and of ourselves depend on these problems. We must defend our professional ethics, but we also must claim for it. If we do not, who will?

This text comes from a group of Swiss journalists from different newspapers (La Tribune de Genève, 24Heures, La Liberté, L'Illustré, L'Hebdo, l'Express, L'Impartial, Le Temps, L'Agefi, Le Courrier, Terre et Nature) as well as from freelances. They do not necessarily describe their own situation but they all worry about the exercise of the profession in general. We would like to invite all our colleagues to start such discussions at their staff meetings.