Blogs | Freedom of expression online

Internet censorship in Switzerland

By EDRi · February 12, 2003

<- Update 25.10 2009 – if you are looking for Switzerland Network Testing Tool, you would find it on EFF website ->

In Switzerland, internet censorship is gaining ground. 2 recent events demonstrate this development.

Last December, the examining magistrate of the canton Vaud issued a command to many Swiss internet service providers (ISPs), to block access to 3 websites. The websites, all hosted in the USA, contain strong criticism of a.o. the Swiss courts and are prosecuted for defamation. ISPs were also asked to modify their DNS-servers to specifically block access to the domain

The 3 contested websites are:

Even before the blocking became effective, mirrors immediately sprang up at:

In their press release about this case, the Swiss Internet User Group (SIUG) and the Swiss Network operators Group point out that internet blocking measures are easily bypassed and that article 16 of the Swiss constitution guarantees to every person ‘the right to receive information freely, to gather it from generally accessible sources and to disseminate it.’

Most Swiss providers did not obey at first and appealed against the command. The magistrate then ordered the directors of the companies to appear in court in person. Guido Honegger of Swiss ISP Green refused to bend under this pressure and is now facing a procedure for disobedience. He plans to fight the command in court. Other ISPs like e.g. Init Seven AG are redirecting traffic for the incriminated sites to protest pages.

The blocking-orders coincide with a proposal from the Swiss federal office of justice for a revision of the federal law on lotteries and betting. In article 50 of the proposal, providers could be fined up to one year in prison or a penalty of up to 1 Million Swiss francs (approx. EUR 660.000) for ‘providing access to games that are not allowed according to this law’. The Swiss Internet User Group is concerned that this proposal is only the start of new legislation providing for much wider censorship.

Command by the canton Vaud (unofficial copy, French)

Press release by SIUG and Swinog (in German, 13.12.2002)

Press release ISP Green (30.01.2003)

ISP Init7 explanation about the DNS-block (in German)

Federal Office of Justice (in 4 languages)

(Contribution by Felix Rauch, EDRI-member SIUG)