A leaked mail from the ministry of interior directed at the federal police authorities is causing consternation in Austria. Police officials are asked to keep access to information for media outlets which report “one-sided or negative” as small as legally possible. The letter even mentions specific newspapers as critical media and praises others. The message to journalists is clear: The FPÖ-led ministry of interior favors well-disposed media outlets and tries to push others to report in the same manner. “This is an incredible, unacceptable restriction on the freedom of the press,” says Rubina Möhring, President of Reporters Without Borders Austria, demanding consequences for minister of interior, Herbert Kickl.
“Interior minister Kickl has to resign. Critical media is an important part of any democracy, not an adversary that needs to be kept at bay with deliberate restraint on information. Anyone who wants to restrict the media in such an unequal way tries to hide something and thinks in an authoritarian way that has no place in a democracy, “says Rubin Möhring, warning:” First press freedom declines, then freedom of expression and finally human rights! ”
The four-page mail from the Ministry of the Interior was issued as a warning to the police departments of the federal states. Several officials confirmed the authenticity. In it, the ministry not only gives general advice, but also names the Standard, the Falter and the Kurier as too critical media with which the communication should be “limited to the utmost extent” and should not be supported by not giving them exclusive accompaniments. In a broadcast on Monday evening, the spokesperson of the Ministry of the Interior confirmed the authenticity of the mail and wrote that the bias of certain media was real.
For Reporters Without Borders Austria, this targeted intervention is a un up to date unknown extent of trying to control media. “This is a systematic attack on press freedom, the rule of law and democracy.”, Rubina Möhring is stunned. “Otherwise we only know such an approach from authoritarian states. A resignation of Minister Kickls is inevitable. ”
Numerous journalists reported that their inquiries to the Ministry for months would not be answered or only sparsely answered. It often refers to the Freedom of Information Act. The act also provides for an answer without delay.