Picture taken on April 26, 2023 at the Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian national library) in Vienna, Austria, shows an issue from March 14, 1938 of the Wiener Zeitung newspaper, announcing the annexation of Austria to Germany. Image Credit: AFP

Vienna: One of the world's oldest newspapers still in print, Austria's Wiener Zeitung, will primarily move online, after a decision Thursday by the country's parliament.

The development marks the final step in a years-long dispute between the Austrian government and the newspaper about the future of the state-owned daily.

Founded in 1703 under the name Wiennerisches Diarium, and later renamed Wiener Zeitung in 1780, the formerly private bi-weekly paper was nationalised by Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria in 1857, becoming the country's official gazette.

"It is adopted with a majority," Norbert Hofer, the third president of the parliament, said of a new law to primarily move the publication online from July 1.

Rene Rainer, librarian of the Oesterreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian national library), poses on April 26, 2023, in Vienna, Austria, with the original of the first printed newspaper 'Vienna's diary' (Wiennerisches Diarium, later known as Wiener Zeitung), printed in the year of 1703. Image Credit: AFP

The paper will maintain a minimum of ten print publications per year, depending on the funds available.

The Wiener Zeitung was in 2004 ranked as one of the oldest newspapers still in circulation, the World Association of News Publishers told AFP.

The newspaper's role as official gazette, it's main source of revenue, will move to a separate state-owned online platform.


The government argued that this was in line with a European directive to centralise and publish official information online.

Meanwhile, the Wiener Zeitung will establish a media hub, a content agency, and a training centre for journalists.

"Some fear that the government just wants to keep the Wiener Zeitung brand with its 320-year-old history, while nobody knows what the future publication will look like - whether it will still be serious journalism," its vice managing editor Mathias Ziegler told AFP.

A woman holds the current issue of the "Wiener Zeitung" newspaper from April 27, 2023, with its front page illustrating the newspaper's age of 320 years, in Vienna, Austria, on April 27, 2023. Image Credit: AFP

Almost half of the newspaper's over 200 employees - 40 of whom are journalists - could be laid off, according to its trade union.

The Wiener Zeitung has a circulation of about 20,000 on weekdays and about twice as much on weekends.

EU Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova told Austrian news agency APA that she was "not happy with the situation".

"I think the Wiener Zeitung played a good role in informing people over the years".

Several hundred people took to the streets in Vienna on Tuesday to protest the government's move.