Media Policy – Press Council presents annual report and case statistics for 2020

More cases than ever before – namely 418 – occupied the Press Council in 2020. This was due, among other things, to the reports on COVID19, which led to a particularly high number of submissions. In addition, the press council received more than 1,500 complaints based on reports on the terrorist attack in Vienna on November 2nd, 2020. This is an absolute negative record in terms of the number of complaints on a specific topic (for comparison: In the entire year 2020, 4085 readers turned to the colleagues of the German Press Council).

“Especially in times of crisis we are obviously experiencing a great need for media-ethical self-control,” says Andreas Koller, spokesman for Senate 2 of the Press Council.

Case statistics 2020

As stated at the beginning, the Senates of the Press Council dealt with a total of 418 cases in the previous year, and in 36 cases they found violations of the code of honor for the Austrian press. Six ethics violations were classified as minor and therefore only indications were given. For comparison: in 2019 there were 38 ethics violations in 297 cases (five of which were indications).

The 2020 number of cases for individual media and, in brackets, the respective media ethical violations: “Austria, OE24” 57 cases (17), “Kronen Zeitung” 62 (11), “Today” 28 (3), “Wochenblick” 3 (2 ), “Bezirksblätter” 15 (2), “The whole week” 1 (1), “Kitzbüheler Anzeiger” 2 (1), “Kurier” 27 (1), “Der Standard” 52 (0), “Kleine Zeitung” 17 (0), “Die Presse” 12 (0), “VN” 10 (0) and “SN” 6 (0).

In ten cases, the senates took action independently; five ethics violations were found.

Media ethical decisions of the year

Most of the violations of ethics concerned personality violations (point 5 of the code of ethics), some also discriminated against groups of people (point 7 of the code of ethics) and the separation of advertising and editorial content.

The violations of personality included the publication of the picture of a seven-year-old murder victim in the report on criminal trial (“OE24”); the publication of a falsified picture of a Green politician depicting him with Covid disease (“wochenblick.at”); the naming of details about child abuse (“District Gazette Lower Austria”); the publication of a video showing the shooting of a passerby by the terrorist in Vienna (“oe24.at”, “krone.at”); the publication of a video in which a police officer was hit in an exchange of fire during the Vienna terror attack (“oe24.at”, “krone.at”); the publication of the photo of the body of a murder victim, which the perpetrator originally distributed via WhatsApp (“OE24”).

The Senates rated a dubious article as discriminatory, for example, according to which teachers at a Carinthian secondary school had to give “asylum-seekers children” good grades (“The whole week”) or a contribution in which the medium did not sufficiently differentiate itself from the quote “Schlitzaugen-Virus” and other insults against Chinese people distanced themselves (“oe24.at”).

In addition, there were several violations of the requirement to distinguish between advertising and editorial content. For example with several articles in a Tyrolean regional newspaper (“Kitzbüheler Anzeiger”) or a contribution about a ?? 2.50 schnitzel at XXXLutz (“oe24.at”).

Finally, in a statement, the press council criticized the publication of mug shots of the alleged oligarch niece of the Ibiza video in several media.

In the opinion of the press council, the publication of a caricature on “nachrichten.at” depicting Pamela Rendi-Wagner as a girl from the cake with the accompanying text “The new packaging” was not a violation of ethics; The decisive factor here was that the SPÖ leader’s political demands were alluded to, which her party had previously represented; therefore there was a certain factual relation to politics.

The publication of a photo showing Johann Gudenus suspected of drug use was not punished by the press council either (“kurier.at”). The Senate 3 argued here that Gudenus has regularly campaigned for a stricter drug policy during his political activity. To be cleared up about this contradiction in words and pictures was of public interest.

Most recently, a satirical and polemical art criticism about the singer Andreas Gabalier was classified as unobjectionable in terms of media ethics (“kurier.at”).

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