Courts should take public interest into account in cases against journalists, says OSCE Representative, following trespassing case in Austria
VIENNA, 22 December 2015 – OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović today said that a recent court ruling in Austria, ordering an online news portal to pay 2,000 Euros to the landlord of an asylum centre for trespassing, can affect the media’s ability to cover events of high public interest.
“Journalists must be allowed to report on issues of public importance without undue constraints or the fear of being punished,” Mijatović said. “The use of private property rights to punish journalists trying to report on facts directly related to a debate of high public interest cannot be justified.”
In October 2014, journalists from the online news portal Dossier tried to visit a refuge centre to report on the conditions of the accommodation housing asylum seekers. After being denied entry to the premises by the owner, the journalists were invited by asylum seekers to enter the building.
In its ruling in early December, the regional court in the Austrian state of Burgenland said that the journalists from Dossier did not have permission from the landlord or the state refugee agency to enter the premises, and that the journalists had violated the landlord’s property rights. This ruling confirmed a previous decision by a lower court.
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on www.facebook.com/osce.rfom.