19 Aug 2019 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 09 Sep 2016 n° 96/2016 Switzerland

Swiss Intelligence Act Threatens Secrecy of Journalistic Sources

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
The three main journalists’ organisations in Switzerland, impressum, syndicom and SSM, have condemned the draft Intelligence Act (Lrens) that is currently being put to a Referendum. According to the organisations representing journalists, this draft is a threat to the protection of journalistic sources and thus the right of Swiss citizens to be fully informed. The reservations foreseen under the Act in favour of people who are subject to professional secrecy, including journalists, do not sufficiently guarantee the protection of whistleblowers’ anonymity which is key to disclosing information in the interest of the public. The three journalists’ organisations also condemn the means granted to intelligence services to access private exchanges of communication of journalists. Concretely, the text legalises the practice, to be carried out by the intelligence services (Service de renseignement de la Confédération), of a particularly broad and intrusive surveillance of the private lives of citizens, without any real counter- power. The organisations of journalists demand that the law contains explicit guarantees to ensure that the protection of sources cannot be bypassed by the power granted to authorities to access private communications of journalists and whistleblowers.
19 Aug 2019
On 4 June 2019, the Federal Administrative Court rejected the appeal in case A-6143/2017 on the grounds that the complainants did not establish the surveillance measures at stake, and that the surveillance of cable network is not directed at private persons, but at the prevention of terrorism, external conflict or important national interests. On 8 July 2019, the complainants took the judgement to the Federal Court.
27 Sep 2018
On 27 September 2018, Société numérique/Digitale Gesellschaft took this judgment of the Federal Court to the European Court of Human Rights.
02 Mar 2018
On 2 March 2018, the Federal Court (case 1C-598/2016) upheld the Federal Administrative Court’s judgment of 9 September 2016 rejecting an appeal by Federal Counsellor Bathasar Glättli, journalist Dominique Strebel and Société numérique/Digital Gesellschaft against the retention of login data provided by the LRens, on the grounds that the restrictions on fundamental rights operated by mass surveillance are proportionate.
30 Oct 2017
On 30 October 2017, lawyer Marcel Bosonnet, journalists Serena Tinari and Noëmo Landolt as well as Heiner Busch (Solidarity Without Borders), Andre Meister (netzpolitik.org) and Norbert Bollow and Erik Schonberger (Société numérique/Digitale Gesellschaft) lodged an appeal before the Federal Administrative Court (case A-6143/2017) against the SRC's rejection of their request not to explore the cable network on the basis of connection data provided by telephone companies.
01 Sep 2017
On 1 September 2017, the LRens (RO 2017, 4095) came into force to replace the Federal Civil Intelligence Act (LFRC) of 3 October 2008 and the Federal Act establishing measures to maintain homeland security (LMSI). Also came into force: Ordinances on the Intelligence Service (ORens); on the Federal Intelligence Service’s information systems and data storage systems (OSIS-SRC); on the Surveillance of Intelligence Activities (OSRens).
25 Sep 2016
On 25 September 2016, following the recommendation of the Federal Council and the Federal Parliament, the Swiss people approved the Federal Intelligence Act (LRens) of 25 September 2015 by 65.5% against 34.5%.
State replies
16 Sep 2016
Reply by the Swiss authorities
06 Oct 2015
Letter from the Commissioner for Human Rights of 23 September 2015 to Mr Ueli Muller, Federal Consellor, on the Intelligence Bill; Ueli Muller's response of 6 October 2015 (in French).
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