Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
Within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed the:
Right to freedom of opinion and expression: Article 19 Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966)
The resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966 adopted by the General Assembly came into force on the 10th of September 1978. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states:
1. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.
2. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.
3. The exercise of the rights provided for in paragraph 2 of this article carries with it special duties and responsibilities. It may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary:
(a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others;
(b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals.
1. Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.
2. Any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law.
Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms
Section 1:Rights and Freedoms
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union
Title II: Freedoms
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers.
2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.
The Austrian Federal Constitutional laws guarantee freedom of expression. Under Article 13 of the Basic Law on the Rights of Nationals :
Everyone has the right, within the limits of the law, to freely to express his opinion by word of mouth and in writing, print, or pictorial representation. The Press may be neither subjected to censorship nor restricted by the licensing system. Administrative postal distribution vetoes do not apply to inland publication.
A further guard against censorship can be found in the Resolution of the provisional National Assembly on the Abolition of Censorship :
1. All censorship is abolished as illegal because it is contradictory to the basic rights of the citizen.
2. Stops on publications and the issue of a postal distribution veto on such cease forthwith.
Article 20 of the Federal Constitution requires government bodies and corporations to provide information to citizens. The article states that all the functionaries of public bodies shall impart information about matters pertaining to their sphere of competence in so far as this does not conflict with a legal obligation to maintain secrecy .
A central piece of legislation is the Media Act, establishing the bases for a free media in Austria and guaranteeing the independence of its actors in this sector (journalists, broadcasters, editors, etc.).Through Article 31, the Act guarantees the protection of sources, by enshrining the right to refuse to identify a source or to disclose the contents of the information gathered through it. In addition, the act requires the disclosure of media ownership and contains provisions protecting privacy. An update in 2005 made explicit the inclusion of digital platforms as part of mass media; therefore, all provisions of the act now apply to them including the need to disclose ownership . In this line, a legislative measure that has recently come in to force is the Act on Transparency of Media Cooperation, which aims to increase transparency by requiring public bodies to disclose information pertaining to their cooperation with the media. Also relevant is a federal labour law that grants journalists specific rights via their employers.
The Austrian Government has put number of measures in place to support the printed press and journalism. For example, the Act for the Promotion of the Press (2004) gives KommAustria the responsibility for administering press subsidies granted by the federal government. These can go to daily and weekly newspapers, and special funds are available for the preservation of regional papers. Other features of the act include funds for research, and training new journalists as well as for a representative self-regulatory institution for the printed press . The Journalism Subsidies Act (1984/2004 ) works in the same vein and affords subsidies to those who apply for them; a special area being periodicals focused on culture or any scientific discipline.
In regards to broadcasting in particular, there is also the Federal Constitutional Act on the Independence of Broadcasting, assuring the independence of those reporting as well as the need to provide plurality within broadcasting. In turn, the Federal Act on the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF Act 2002) established new legal provisions for the ORF, whose role is to provide, for the general public, an equally accessible public broadcasting service. The Audio-visual Media Services Act of 2010 replaced the Private Television act, and implements the EU’s Audio-visual Media Services Directive. An important change it brought about was the expansion of KommAustria, the Austrian Communication Authority, to include online audio-visual media services.
Freedom of information
The right to information is guaranteed both at the federal and Laender level. The Fundamental Act on the Duty to Grant Information requires that bodies of the Federation, as well as those under self-administration regulated by Federal legislation, grant the public access to information on matters which fall within the scope of their activities (article 1). The Fundamental Act on the Duty to Grant Information also assures the right of the public to access information falling within the scope of the competencies of the organs of the Laender and self-administration that are regulated by the Laender.