Bemused Austrians woke up last week to find themselves in the middle of a coup d’etat of the kind the Nazis would have been proud of. All that was missing were blood red Swastika flags hanging from every single street, market square and building as well as columns of German army military vehicles rolling in.
In an series of events without parallel in postwar Austrian history, the Justice Minister working with her counterparts in Munich, Germany, attempted to destroy nothing less than the remnants of a free and critical press, democracy and the rule of law in the country.
Hauling in the few journalists left reporting one of the biggest financial scandals in the country’s history — conducted with the help of high ranking politicians like Edmund Stoiber — for interrogations even though they had broken no law was bad enough.
Justice officials then demanded material from the state run ORF TV station in a pattern of harrassment that is becoming very alarming. Material was demanded in spite of the fact that it is protected by laws on the confidentiality of sources, and handing such material over would set a precedent that would spell the end of whatever is left of any independent reporting in the country.
From that moment on, no journalist could be sure that their workplace is not raided and material seized and censored before they can publish it. A judge can issue any decree ordering any unspecified material to be handed over on any pretext.
The tame pussy cat which is usually civil society in Austria, however, roared like a lion.
Journalists, unions, politicians joined a chorus condemning the imminent loss of democracy and freedom of the press as soon as the shocking news that the justice system is systematically engaged in break laws and destroying democracy on Thursay last week.
The roar was so defeaning that even Dr Bandion-Ortner had to hesistate with her whiplash exhortations to fall into line and accept the fait accompli and obey decrees, however, illegal.
Once more publicity has proved to be decisive in stopping a total breakdown of law and order by a government that has run amok. Read the rest of this entry »