July 17, 2020 | News | No Comments
Austria’s far-Right Freedom Party has been accused of attempting to restrict press freedom in the country after an email advising police not to share information with certain publications was leaked.
The email, sent by the interior ministry to police press officers around the country, advises them to keep communications with some of Austria’s best-known media outlets to “the minimum legally possible”.
The Freedom Party controls the interior ministry as junior partner in Austria’s coalition government. The email is part of a new media policy ordered by Herbert Kickl as interior minister.
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“Certain media provide very one-sided and negative coverage of the interior ministry and the police,” the email states.
It goes on to suggest “limiting communication with these media to the minimum legally possible and not offering them any benefits such as exclusive access.”
The email names Der Standard and Kurier, two of the country’s best-known newspapers, and Falter, a magazine known for its investigative journalism.
The leaked email caused an outcry and calls for Mr Kickl’s resignation as interior minister. The new policy was condemned as “crossing a dangerous line” by the Austrian Journalists’ Union.
Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian chancellor, was quick to overrule the new policy and distance himself from his coalition partners.
“The exclusion or boycott of selected media will not be permitted in Austria,” Mr Kurz said in New York, where he is taking part in the United Nations general assembly.
“Government and public institutions have a grave responsibility to protect a free and independent journalism and any restriction of freedom of the press is unacceptable.”
In a statement, the interior ministry said the email was only a suggestion and “not an obligation or directive” for press officers. It was not ordered directly by Mr Kickl, the ministry added.
The email also encouraged the police to publicise all sexual offences as widely as possible. Previously the Austrian police policy has been to minimise publicity of sex attacks as far as possible in order to spare the victims further trauma.