Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = 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. Freedom of information legislation is in place, and the government generally respects these provisions in practice. Libel and slander laws protect politicians and other government officials and in some cases lead to self-censorship. In November 2006, the European Court of Human Rights overturned decisions in three cases brought to trial by public figures on defamation charges related to articles published in the daily Der Standard. The Austrian courts’ reasoning “had not been relevant or sufficient to justify the interference in the applicants’ right to freedom of expression,” which was judged a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Any form of pro-Nazism or anti-Semitism is prohibited by law, as is Holocaust denial. In February, British author David Irving, who had been charged with violating the law banning neo-Nazi activities, was sentenced to three years in prison. In April, John Gudenus, a former member of the upper house of Parliament, was sentenced to probation for statements denying the events of the Holocaust.
Since 2004’s Broadcasting Law amendments, Austria’s public broadcaster, which operates two television stations and four radio channels, faces growing competition for audiences from private broadcasters. Cable and satellite are widely available and are often used to watch German stations, some of which tailor programming for the Austrian audience. Daily newspapers, both national and regional, are very popular and contest fiercely for readers. Foreign investors have a solid presence in the predominantly privately owned print market, and ownership concentration is high. Many radio stations have ties to print outlets, and additionally there is cross-ownership of daily and weekly newspapers. Press subsidies help newspapers survive and are designed to encourage pluralism. Internet access is unrestricted and was made use of by more than 50 percent of the population in 2006.