Blickpunkte is a bi-monthly Austrian magazine that first appeared in 1993 as „Magazin für Häfnkultur und Menschenrechte“. Blickpunkte is the only Austrian publication that actively involves inmates, addresses the special challenges associated with life behind bars and report regularly on the penal system and forensic commitment. The editorial staff consists exclusively of volunteers.
In 1993 inmates of Mittersteig Prison founded the forerunner of „Blickpunkte,“ which was also published online for the first time in 2014. Today, the magazine is a nonprofit organization (NPO) that is predominantly funded by donations and membership fees from the nonprofit association „SiM – Selbst und Interessensvertretung Maßnahmenvollzug„, which has been the magazine’s media owner since 2016. In that year, the magazine’s continued existence was threatened, but was secured in the long term by the SiM association. In order to raise public awareness of the problems in the prison system, Blickpunkte focuses on networking and education and invites renowned experts for interviews.
The heart of Blickpunkte beats behind bars
Media have a special function in our society, which focuses on information and knowledge: as a factor and mediator of public communication, they are supposed to promote the formation of opinion and enable participation. Enabling participation opportunities for those affected and their relatives is important, because the heart of Blickpunkte still beats behind bars.
The magazine therefore aims to sharpen understanding of, illuminate and comment on the sociopolitical situation of prisoners in Austria. To make this possible, the know-how of the entire editorial team is incorporated, be it in interpreting and translation activities, reporting skills, graphic services and much more. The central concern is to provide fact-based articles and information to raise public awareness and increase transparency in the execution of measures. In order to promote a broad public debate, Blickpunkte cultivates a broad debate that also includes contributions from prison inmates and their relatives.
8,488 persons are imprisoned in Austria as of January 2021; 1,245 of them in „institutions for mentally abnormal offenders“. Since former inmates of the penal system are already threatened by social exclusion, mechanisms of social stigmatization are particularly effective in the case of people formerly housed at institutions for mentally abnormal offenders. Forensic commitment is an instrument of the Austrian prison system that has been repeatedly criticized by the European Court of Human Rights and whose urgently needed reform has been demanded by experts for years. The population is largely unfamiliar with this special model of housing offenders, as well as with the associated human rights issues, which affect fundamental values of our society.
The magazine focuses on education without a moralizing lecture. In an increasingly complex world, communicating legal issues to the general public is a challenging task. This applies in a special way to forensic commitment, which is not or not sufficiently well-known to large parts of the Austrian population. But nevertheless, in the wake of the November 2, 2020 terrorist attack in Vienna, it was widely discussed under misleading buzzwords such as „preventive detention.“ Such media coverage, if it merely scandalizes, contributes not insignificantly to the spread of clichéd ideas.
The ongoing competition for digitization is also having an impact on the work of the mazagine. While the Internet has significantly improved the exchange of information, the increasing commercialization of the Net is creating new dimensions of digital inequality. This digital divide is of particular relevance in relation to inmates and poses the risk of an additional hurdle in the context of resocialization. One example is the magazine’s poster supplement, which is a response to the dreariness of the prison cell.
Blickpunkte is independent of political parties and is aimed at all readers who want to be informed about developments, especially in the prison system, and about events in a prison from the perspective of prison inmates and experts.
The magazine complies with the journalistic duty of care. Facts and opinions must be comprehensible to the readership. This is guaranteed by transparent sources. The editorial team is committed to the Code of Ethics of the Austrian Press Council and has accepted its arbitration jurisdiction in the complaints procedure. In 2015, the editorial team received the „Honorable Mention“ of the Prof Claus Gatterer Award for socially committed journalism.
Blickpunkte magazine advocates respect for human rights, the principles of parliamentary democracy and the rule of law, and tolerance towards all ethnic and religious communities. It aims to sharpen the understanding of the socio-political situation of prisoners in Austria, to illuminate and comment on it.
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