April 26, 2019 / 12:31 PM / a month ago

Austria broadcaster defends journalist who compared far-right poster to Nazis

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria’s public broadcaster ORF defended its top news anchor on Friday after a far right politician threatened the journalist with “consequences” for comparing an anti-immigrant poster to Nazi propaganda.

FILE PHOTO: Top candidate of Austria's Freedom Party for the European elections Harald Vilimsky addresses the media in Vienna, Austria April 23, 2019. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

The far-right Freedom Party (FPO) is the junior partner in a coalition government with the conservatives. It says it wants to restructure the ORF which it accuses of left-wing bias.

During an interview with Harald Vilimsky, the FPO’s top candidate for the European Parliament, the host of flagship news programme ZiB 2, Armin Wolf, asked Vilimsky to explain a poster created by a branch of the far-right party’s youth wing.

The poster depicted a blonde couple in traditional Austrian dress, surrounded by sneering grey figures with oversized noses accompanied by the slogan “tradition beats migration”. Wolf asked how this depiction of migrants differed from the anti-Semitic depiction of Jews in a Nazi newspaper.

“To draw this parallel, Mr Wolf, is the last straw,” Vilimsky responded. “That is something that cannot go without consequences.”

In a later interview, Vilimsky said that if he were in charge of the broadcaster, Wolf would be fired.

The broadcaster’s general manager, Alexander Wrabetz, said it was not up to party figures to decide who hosts its programmes.

“The decisions in this enterprise are made by me,” Wrabetz told daily newspaper Kurier. “I do not let a party leader tell me who is moderating ZiB.”

Wolf did not respond to an emailed request for comment. An ORF spokesman said he was on holiday. The FPO did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Opposition lawmakers fumed over the attacks on the ORF. Thomas Drozda, media policy spokesman for the Social Democrats, called them “first steps toward an iliberal democracy”.

Reporting by Kirsti Knolle; Editing by Peter Graff

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