Tiny Liechtenstein has just a few national media, which are linked to its political parties. But its mainly German-speaking inhabitants can get their news from media outlets in neighbouring countries.
The oldest newspaper’s closure, in early 2023, due to economic reasons left Liechtenstein with just one daily, Liechtensteiner Vaterland. The country has just one radio station, Radio Liechtenstein, which has been overseen by the principality’s public broadcasting company, Liechtensteinische Rundfunk (LRF) since 2003 and has around 50,000 listeners. And it has one TV channel, 1FLTV, which was launched in 2008 and is owned by an Austrian company. To diversify these limited news sources, the population has ample access to the media in neighbouring Switzerland and Austria and nearby Germany.
Although the situation seems to be improving, the media still have close links with the political parties, to the detriment of their independence. The two daily newspapers are owned by the two main ruling parties – VU and FBP. The left-wing environmentalist party, Freie List (Free List), which had hitherto been committed to the defence of press freedom, attacked journalists in 2021 for the first time after the two national dailies published the findings of an investigation into the party.
The political parties, especially the two ruling parties, exert a great deal of influence over newspapers, in which journalists may have a tendency to censor themselves. The situation is also worrying within the public radio and TV, where the journalists, who are nearly all internally trained, often fawn on VU and VBP politicians.
The media’s main problem in Liechtenstein is the limited advertising market, which reduces the media on offer and prevents them from being profitable. Newspapers therefore depend on economic support. No real effort is made to direct state aid to the media in ways that encourage more independent journalism and investigations of better quality.
Like many countries, Liechtenstein is faced with declining public interest in news and growing distrust of traditional media. Groups or individuals with extremist ideas enjoyed greater visibility during the Covid-19 pandemic in 2021, influencing an anti-media discourse.
The coronavirus pandemic has seen a sharp increase in attempts to influence certain sectors of civil society, with the result that media and journalists have been the targets of threats and smears. Reporters and media were subjected to unprecedented verbal attacks during protests against measures taken to combat the pandemic.