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Thu, 5 August 2021
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Austria: Interior Ministry wants to restrict information for “critical media”

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Austrian Interior Ministry wants to restrict information for “critical media”

The Association of European Journalists condemns a proposal by the Austrian ministry of Interior to restrict information for what they called “critical media”. A ministry spokesman close to Minister Herbert Kickl (Freedom Party FPO) told police authorities to favour media outlets which report friendly about the ministry and police affairs and withhold information to those newspapers which report „one-sided and negative“ about the Ministry and police.

In an e-mail leaked to the press Monday evening the spokesman recommended to “restrict communication with these media to only the most necessary (legally required) degree”.

With these proposals the Austrian minister “once again showed his disrespect of media freedom” said AEJ-President Otmar Lahodynsky, an Austrian journalist. “A few weeks ago, in the scandal over the Austrian Anti-Terror and Intelligence office BVT, raided by police loyal to Mr Kickl, there were rumours that private homes of investigative journalists might be searched by police.” Five Austrian editors-in-chief and the AEJ warned of any such attacks on press freedom.

In the e-mail there were suggestions that the nationalities of criminals should be communicated from now on, a move clearly directed against refugees.

Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, in a coalition with the right-wing Freedom party (FPOe) since last year, criticised the new leaked plans by the Interior ministry. “Any restriction of press freedom is unacceptable”, he said.

The FPOe already was in a government with the OVP from 2000-2008. At that time the press spokesmen of FPOe-held ministries did not answer phone calls or queries from independent media for several months, until journalists reminded the FPOe politicians that their spokesmen were paid by the taxpayers.

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