Deteriorating working conditions undermine press freedom, says study

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Deteriorating working conditions of journalists put press freedom in danger, according to a study published by the University of Fribourg and the Federal Office of Communications in Switzerland.

The study participated by 1000 journalists who are members of the affiliate of the European Federation of Journalists, impressum, proves that the deteriorating working conditions have a negative impact on press freedom and quality of journalism. The results suggest that economic pressure from advertisers and the media owners are jeopardising the editorial freedom of media.

Ricardo Gutiérrez, EFJ General Secretary said: “The conclusions are clear: we fought hard to ensure that press freedom is not hampered by any political or commercial pressurePress freedom is a valuable asset, but it appears that dependency on commercial interest puts the future of journalism at risk.

Urs Thalmann, Director of impressum, who is a member of EFJ Steering Committee, supports the findings of the study. Thalmann said: “The pressure put on journalists, in terms of workload has led to less time dedicated for research and investigation. Structuring measures taken in newsrooms led to higher insecurity adding onto the pressure facing journalists. there is a lack of collective agreements in the private media sector in the German and Italian speaking regions of Switzerland. We welcome the fact that a scientific study has clearly established the relationship between working conditions and the quality of journalism.”

Dominique Diserens, Secretary General of impressum in the French-speaking parts of western Switzerland, said: “There is a huge economic pressure on media workers as investments in private media are decreasing. However, decent conditions and quality in journalism can be maintained because the collective agreement is in place in this region. Eventually, media companies, journalists and readers can benefit from it.”

On state subsidy, Thalmann said: The study clearly demonstrates that state subsidy has the similar effect as commercial pressure on press freedom. To guarantee the independence of media, funding should come from several sources. Only subsidy provided by an institution independent from the state would allow media to be more independent from commercial pressure.

The study (in German) can be downloaded here.

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