The media activities of the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) are based on certain statutory provisions. In criminal proceedings, consideration must be given to various, often conflicting, interests. These include the protection of privacy, particularly of victims but also of suspects, procedural tactics, the need to provide the public with information and the principle of proportionality. There is a duty to give equal consideration to all these interests in each individual case.
The relevant statutory provisions have the following effects:
- Under Art. 73 Swiss Criminal Procedure Code (CrimPC), criminal proceedings are generally confidential
- Art. 320 Swiss Criminal Code (SCC) regulates official secrecy
- When providing information to the public, the presumption of innocence and the privacy of the persons involved in the proceedings must be respected (Art. 6 No 2 ECHR, Art. 74 para. 3 CrimPC).
- Protection of privacy (Art. 28 ZGB, Art. 117 para. 1 let. a, Art. 152 CrimPC)
- Protection of victims (Art. 74 para. 4 CrimPC)
- Art. 74 para. 1 CrimPC and the recommendations of the Swiss Conference for Public Prosecution Service Information Officers (SKIS) point 4 outline the situations in which it is either permitted or mandatory to provide information on criminal proceedings. There is a requirement to provide information:
- a) to enable the public to assist in the investigation of crimes and in bringing perpetrators to justice;
- b) to warn or reassure the public;
- c) to correct inaccurate reports or rumours;
- d) where the case is of special importance (i.e. there is an overriding requirement to provide information to the public)
- Art. 69ff CrimPC regulates the publicity that may be given to court proceedings.
Related principles for OAG media activities:
- OAG’s / Federal Criminal Court’s control of media communications: Once the indictment has been filed, the court is responsible for media communications. This means that the OAG is no longer permitted to make any comment on the case and must refer any questions to the court.
- Mutual assistance: The Federal Office of Justice (FOJ) is responsible for media communications until responsibility for the request of mutual assistance is delegated to the OAG; thereafter the OAG becomes responsible for media communications. Questions from the media about requests for mutual assistance to or from the USA are answered by the FOJ, because the FOJ is the central authority. In principle, the requesting authority is responsible for media communications.
- OAG Communications Services as contact point for journalists: without exception, media enquiries are dealt with by the media office and not directly by the Attorney General or the federal prosecutors.