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Press freedom in Austria under increasing threat

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Press freedom in Austria under increasing threat
KOEN VAN WEEL/EPA
11:39 CEST+02:00
Austria has fallen four places in the global rankings on press freedom, according to freedom of information organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

The World Press Freedom Index published by the organisation highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information, ranking 180 countries on indicators such as media independence, self-censorship, the rule of law, transparency and abuses.

This year Austria fell from seventh place to eleventh place. According to the Austrian branch of the organisation, this was partly due to temporary blocking of information from the country's largest refugee centre Traiskirchen.

“The journalists asked every day to get permission to visit Traiskirchen but they weren't getting it. Finally they did but you can't do that. It's not democratic. That's really crucial reason why the country's ranking fell,” said the President of Reporters without Borders Austria, Rubina Möhring, speaking to The Local Austria.

Other reasons for Austria's lower ranking this year included the maintaining of the country's policy against releasing state information to journalists. Unlike many countries in Europe, Austria does not have a Freedom of Information system in place.

“Their information policy is not the best one,” says Möhring. “Civil servants can't tell journalists facts and figures. Nearby in Slovenia and in Hamburg in Germany they have good systems. Here is it quite ‘Habsburgian'.”

Reporters without Borders also argue that there are “a strikingly large amount of government adverts in certain media” in Austria.

“I get the impression that the government expect more positive reporting because they have paid so much on advertisements,” Möhring explains.

Globally, the report said that every continent saw its press freedom scores decline since the last annual report and warned that Europe is on "a downhill course".

RSF said that European media is increasingly falling under the control of conglomerates while at the same time European governments are cracking down on press freedoms.
 
The organisation says this is the case in some areas of Austrian media, where media ownership is concentrated in a few hands. For example, in several regions, the most important daily newspaper also owns the only privately-owned local radio station.

The full global ranking can be viewed here.
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