Austria | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status


Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


The federal constitution and the Media Law of 1981 provide the basis for free media in Austria. The Freedom of Information Act provides for full public access to government information, and the government generally respects these provisions in practice. Seldom-used legal restrictions are in place that forbid reporting deemed detrimental to morality or national security. Libel and slander laws protect politicians and other government officials and in some cases lead to self-censorship. The law prohibits any form of pro-Nazism or anti-Semitism, and the government strictly enforces the law against pro-Nazi statements or activity. During the year, authorities indicted and arrested British author David Irving and indicted John Gudenus, a former member of the upper house of Parliament, for statements concerning events during the Holocaust. Irving remained in custody at year's end. Under the law, both Gudenus and Irving could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

The broadcast media remain dominated by Austria's public broadcaster, Osterreichischer Rundfunk (ORF), which operates two television stations and four radio channels that provide balanced news coverage. Since amendments to the Private Television Act entered into force in August 2004, ORF faces growing competition for audiences from private broadcasters. For the first time, nationwide private broadcasters were allowed to function. Local commercial radio went on air in the 1990s. Cable and satellite are available in some 75 percent of Austrian homes and are often used to watch widely available German stations, some of which tailor their output for the Austrian audience. Daily newspapers, both national and regional, are very popular and contest fiercely for readers. The print market in Austria is mainly privately owned. Foreign investors have a solid presence in the market, and ownership concentration is high; many radio stations have ties to print outlets in addition to ownership links between daily papers and weeklies. Press subsidies help newspapers survive and are designed to encourage pluralism. Internet access is unrestricted and widely available.