Newsroom / Update: Media law - Gerald Ganzger in Horizont

Update: Media law - Gerald Ganzger in Horizont


Update: Media law - Gerald Ganzger in Horizont

An online medium has reported that the abuse of office charge against an ex state governor has become legally binding. In this online article it was further reported that in this legally binding prosecutor's indictment the ex state governor is accused of having given his employee an illegal instruction to issue fictitious invoices.

The former state governor brought in compensation claims under media law for defamation. The online medium defended itself above all with the fact that "the circumstance of being suspected of a criminal offence is neither a contemptible characteristic or attitude nor dishonorable or immoral behavior, so there is no libel. After the former state governor won in two instances against the online medium, the proceedings ultimately ended up at the Supreme Court (OGH). In its decision, the Supreme Court once again confirmed the legal principle that has been in force in Austria for about ten years, namely that "not only the accusation of committing a criminal offence is libel", but also the statement of a corresponding suspicion, i.e. the assertion that there are indications that the person concerned has committed such an offence is libel.

The Supreme Court pointed out that the expression of a (mere) suspicion of a crime usually implies the assumption that the person concerned can be trusted to commit the crime. From a legal point of view, this is the weakened form of the accusation. The OGH also rejected the argument of the online medium that it had complied with the journalistic duty of care. The online medium failed it to take up contact before the publication of the incriminated article to the requesting ex federal state governor in order to request this to a statement. In this context, the online medium did not benefit from the fact that it had relied on research by another medium. The OGH pointed out that every media owner is obliged to observe journalistic diligence and that a medium may not successfully rely on the research of another medium. This decision clearly shows the obligation of a medium to expressly request the person concerned to comment even if a preliminary investigation by a public prosecutor is present.