Legal Environment: 8 (of 30)
Political Environment: 8 (of 40)
Economic Environment: 5 (of 30)
Total Score: 21 (of 100)
(Lower scores = freer)
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 2007, six cases were taken to the European Court of Human Rights; most of the 15 cases taken to the ECHR in the last 8 years have been defamation cases. Previously, in November 2006, the ECHR overturned decisions in three cases brought to trial by public figures on defamation charges related to articles published in the daily Der Standard.
Any form of pro-Nazism or anti-Semitism is prohibited by law, as is Holocaust denial. After two high profile cases in 2006, including the sentencing of British author David Irving to three years in prison, there was only one Holocaust denial conviction in 2007. Gerd Honsik, who had published books in the late 1980s questioning the Holocaust, was sentenced in December 2007 to eighteen months in jail. A Danish artist, Jan Egesborg, was arrested in a Vienna subway station while putting up posters criticizing Russian president Vladimir Putin prior to Putin's visit. The posters, which questioned Putin's involvement in the shooting of journalists, were designed so that the words "shoot" and "Putin" were prominent. He was charged with possible incitement but the charges were later dropped.
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 56 percent of the population in 2007.
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