Auf Einladung der US-Mission der OSCE sprach die Präsidentin von Reporter ohne Grenzen Österreich, Rubina Möhring am Dienstag in der OSCE über Informationsfreiheit.
Was Rubina Möhring zu sagen hatte, kann man hier nachlesen.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to start with the current political tendencies in our “new brave world” and their influence on the media. Specifically, I believe that we need to focus on far-right, nationalist movements for the following reasons:
• They have coopted the concept of “Freedom of Opinion” in order to spread falsehoods.
The legitimation of Freedom of Opinion derives from its function within a democratic society: to enable the free exchange of ideas. Telling lies and demanding that doing so should have no consequences under the umbrella of Freedom of Opinion is an entirely different matter – especially in the context of public discourse.
• They spread wrong information and outright lies via social media as well as via certain mainstream media, mostly in the yellow press. Using these strategies, they defame serious colleagues and media. So, we all have to be very attentive.
• GONGOs – government-organized non-governmental organizations – are to be analyzed and made transparent.
This year we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of the UN-Human Rights Declaration, which was a sensational achievement after the barbarous genocide und murdering during World War 2.
Nowadays, again we are living in times of change. We all know about the current surge of ultra-right, ultra-nationalistic, illiberal and anti-democratic movements, also within the so-called industrialized, wealthy Western world. Hand in hand with these undemocratic tendencies we notice an increasing animosity against independent media and journalists.
“Media and journalists are the enemies of the people!” With these words, US-President Donald Trump defined this new image of media and journalists at the very outset of his presidency. Regrettably, since then, politicians of numerous countries have followed suit, discrediting the journalists’ profession. Last Example: the newly elected Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro.
So critical media are enemies of more or less autocratic politicians. Look at Saudi Arabia. Just a couple of weeks ago a Saudi journalist has been brutally murdered in the consulate in Istanbul. On the other hand, Turkey itself is one of the biggest prisons for Journalists. Critical journalists very easily can be accused to be a terrorist and therefor e detained.
As we know, indiscriminately discrediting journalists undermines democratic principles. In one of the first declarations of Human Rights – written at the time of the French Revolution 1789 – “Freedom of the Press “and “Freedom of Information” were taken as cornerstones for the development of democratic societies. We also know that the First Amendment of the American Constitution guaranteed press freedom. The leading philosophy was and continues to be that media should be the forth pillar of modern democratic states, acting as a critical counterpart to governments and dominant political classes.
Evidently, freedom of information has seen better days and independent journalism has lost some of its former influence. More and more journalists are being accused of lying when their reports don’t fulfill the expectations of politicians, particularly when political decisions are criticized. And we all know that defaming journalists is a first step towards silencing them, wrongfully imprisoning them, and ultimately towards killing them. We have seen the tragic case of Daphne Galizia. Her son Matthew just informed us that the killers have still not been found.
I am living in Vienna, in Austria, the OSCE host country at the crossroads between East and West. Let us consider the situation in some its neighboring countries, fellow EU members, the so-called Visegrad states: Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland.
In Hungary, truly independent, important media have ceased to exist. In Slovakia, a colleague was murdered only five months ago. In the Czech Republic, last year the very President brandished a replica gun marked “for journalists” at a press conference. And, as I have learned, in Poland the situation of independent journalists is also said to be difficult.
In Austria itself, important members of the current government are seriously discrediting journalists, which constitutes a dangerous step towards anti-democratic thinking and acting. The new Austrian government, apparently, feels comfortable in the vicinity of the Visegrad states.
And Austria’s new government differs between, “good” and “bad” newspapers. The good ones will get information by the ministries, not so the bad ones. The bad ones of course are independent and critical media. “GONGOs,” as mentioned before, are a phenomenon we also should be well aware of, reflect upon and speak about.
Nowadays, we find that xenophobia is often one of the reasons behind illiberal media politics. We followed the events in Chemnitz and other German cities and were shocked by the deeds of far-right mobs and the self-presentation of the German right-wing party AfD. This party has been defaming independent media, calling them “Lügenpresse” (lying press). The AfD hates migrants, spreads the virus of hatred, poisons the social atmosphere and tries to destabilize democratic structures.
Again, hand in hand with these tendencies we observe a new uprising of racism and antisemitism. Let me mention the case of George Soros in Hungary. He is, as we know, a Jewish businessman who was born in Hungary and emigrated to the USA, where he made his fortune. Soros spends a lot of money on strengthening democratic institutions. Now he, “the Jew,” is accused of supporting so-called “illegal migrants” with the aim of damaging the Hungarian society. The Hungarian media echo this official message, again and again and again until people believe it. EU Member States particularly should not fall back to these unacceptable methods and ideologies. Therefore, “Freedom of Information” and pluralism need to be cultivated. In a very, very careful manner.