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.
Buoyed by the strong public support, the ORF on Sunday decided not to hand over material, and stand up for press freedom as they are obliged to do by the law.
This morning Dr Bandion-Ortner once more demanded that the ORF hand over the material, pitting the lawless government against the lawful majority who support the laws protecting the confidentiality of sources and press freedom.
Far-right Freedom Party rottweilers like Harald Vilimsky even said the police should be sent in to seize the material – something that will demonstrate to Austrians surely more clearly than anything else that members of their government have run amok.
The government is trying in vain to hide its sinister puprose of destroying the free and critical media by giving their lawless actions the gloss of being concerned about the activities of right wing Nazis. But the government already has material in relation to the abhorrent Nazi views of some skin heads filmed by ORF.
What does it want with more material?
If the Austrian Justice Minister is so concerned about Nazis, why not ask Bild or Spiegel for material about Tilo Sarrazin? After all, Sarrazin, a German central banker, expressed blatantly Nazi racist views on Muslims and Jews just a few weeks ago.
Why is there no demand sent to TV stations to send footage?
And why is far-right Vlimsky demanding the material? That should be a red flag to everyone that this is about the destruction of the press not about identifying Nazis.
It is time for everyone in the country to make a personal commitment and take action to ensure that Austria remains free and democratic and the government is held to account.
A free and crticial press is vital for any democracy. If the government can seize material once, it can do so any time and start censoring or prohibiting reports on any subject.
Propaganda was one of the most significant features of the Third Reich. Joseph Goebbels, the propaganda minister, was one of the best known figures after Hitler. A gigantic media apparatus was set up to influence public opinion. All elements – newspapers, radio, film—were fused together into gigantic instrument of totaliatrian indoctrination. Disinformation, censorship, exhortations replaced facts, documents, evidence and anaylsis. Barbaric crimes, including the Holocaust, were possible under the propaganda smokescreen.
A free and critical media is reecognised to be the fourth power in any functioning democracy. The government cannot be allowed to persecute journalists and seize material protected by laws on confidentiality without the total destruction of democracy and the rule of law in Austria.
By protesting this weekend, the Austrian people have understood the principles of the Nuremberg Judges Trial of 1947 better than the Justice Minister herself. A clear distinction was made between lawful laws and unlawful laws, between a lawful government and an unlawful government.
Flowing from the principles established during the Nuremberg Trials, which are sill embedded in German law, there is no obligation to obey an illegal law or a criminal government or judges that issues unlawful laws and who areengaged in trampling all over civic rights and press freedom. On the contrary. There is a clear legal, moral and civi obligation to bring such lawless elements in the justice system before a proper court of law and convict them as happened in Nuremberg.
It is urgently necessary to use the principles of the Nuremberg Justice Trial to clean up the corrupt Austrian justice system before it wrecks havoc on the country, Europe and the world yet again.
Bandion-Ortner and the rest of the judges abusing their power must not be allowed to regroup and plan their next assualt on civil liberties and the free and critical press.
Action needs to be taken immediately to invesigate her actions and especially her relationship to Raiffeisen bank. It is not good enough that Bandion-Ortner refuses to answer parliamentary questions on what happened during her meeting with ist head Christian Konradwhen she was allegedly offered the job.
The Austrian people have a right to know of any „conflict of interests.“
A Justice Minister who has taken on the job on the understanding she will ensure the justice system serves the interests of Raiffeisen bank at the expense of the people is engaged in fraud.
Also, requiring to be investigated is the smooth cooperation between the Munich and Vienna.
Munich state prosecutors ordered the interrogations of Austrian journalists for no other purpose than to harrass and silence them in spite of the fact they had broken no law and were reporting on a banking scandal reaching up into the highest level of government.
Is the new much vaunted cross-border cooperation between justice systems nothing less than the joining forces to suppress activists and journalists?
Did German politicians ask their Austrian counterparts to do the dirty work because they know that interrogating journalists who have broken no law and who are reporting on financial scandals would raise a red flag to all Germans that totalitarian police state run by the bankers has come again?
Munich is also the home of Bundesnachrichtendienst, the German secret service that was head by an Reinhard Gehlen until 1968 and packed full of former Nazis.
Thanks to the decisive and courageous response of politicians, journalists and unions, the media in Austria remains free and critical – and the people of the country are able to see the true nature of their current government as the long arm of banks like Raiffeisen engaged in fraud and in the silencing critics.
But the breakdown of law and justice in Austria has now reached levels that are dangerous not just for people in this country but for all Europeans.
All Europeans should take an interest in this assault on press freedom and democracy in Austria.
I was a victim of a similar illegal attackby the entire corrupt network of justice officials stopped only by publicity.
Austria is moving into a totalitarian police state with worrying Nazi leanings – and this development must be stopped.