European Interest

Austria’s far-right attacks public broadcaster ORF reporters

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Funkhaus Wien: today a centre for the production of radio programmes.

A third of the foreign correspondents employed by Austria’s public broadcaster ORF could soon find themselves out of a job. Far-right lawmaker Norbert Steger, who sits on the ORF board of director, has threatened to dismiss them.

According to Steger, the Österreichischer Rundfunk’s (ORF) foreign correspondents were “biased” in their reporting of the recent election in Hungary, which was won by the right-wing nationalist incumbent Viktor Orban.

As reported by Deutsche Welle (DW), Germany’s international broadcaster, Steger’s attack marks the latest escalation in a month-long feud between the broadcaster and the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), the junior partner in Austria’s governing coalition.

In an interview with Austria’s Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper, Steger said foreign correspondents who “do not behave correctly” would risk losing their jobs. He said ORF journalists who violate the company’s social media guideline “will receive a warning – and then be dismissed”.

In response, ORF editorial board member Dieter Bornemann said Steger’s attack is “a new low in media policy”.

Armin Wolf, one of ORF’s most well-known television presenters, said it is not within the board’s remit to deliver warnings or dismiss individual reporters. “Great idea letting party representatives judge what qualifies as ‘objective’. An idea possibly inspired by Hungary.”

According to DW, ORF is currently suing the Austria’s far-right Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache for defamation, after he posted a picture on Facebook accusing the broadcaster of publishing “lies”.

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