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Banking secrecy exception proposed for Swiss media

Swiss journalists say they have less freedom to report on the financial sector than counterparts in other countries. © Keystone / Gaetan Bally

Swiss journalists could in future receive leaked bank data without fear of criminal prosecution if a parliamentary motion is incorporated in banking secrecy legislation.

On Thursday the government supported a proposal from the House of Representatives that the media would be exempt from prosecution if their reporting is deemed in ‘good faith’.

+ Read how the UN condemns Swiss ‘criminalisation of journalism’

Swiss media have been banned from accepting leaked bank data since the banking secrecy act was tightened up in 2015.

The law change has been condemned by Reporters Without Borders and the United Nations for infringing on the freedom of the press in Switzerland.

Last year, a Swiss newspaper turned down the offer of leaked ‘Suisse Secrets’ data, which suggested banking links to criminals and corrupt foreign officials. The newspaper feared criminal prosecution if it followed the example of foreign media which accepted the information.

+ How the Swiss media was excluded from the ‘Suisse Secrets’ story

In addition to criticism from international NGOs, left-leaning Swiss parliamentarians also voiced their concern that press freedom is violated by the law.

A House of Representatives commission responded by issuing a motion to “ensure freedom of the press in financial matters”, which was passed by a narrow majority.

The government broadly welcomed the proposal in a written response on Thursday. But the Senate still has to debate and vote on the issue before any changes can be made to the current law.

More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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About Swissinfo
SWI – the international service of the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Since 1999, has fulfilled the federal government’s mandate to distribute information about Switzerland internationally, supplementing the online offerings of the radio and television stations of the SBC. Today, the international service is directed above all at an international audience interested in Switzerland, as well as at Swiss citizens living abroad.
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