An editor of Austria’s largest paper, Kronen Zeitung, is to be tried for hate speech over a commentary he wrote about the migrant crisis last year.
On 25 October 2015, Christoph Biro wrote of the masses of migrants who were travelling through the Styrian countryside and remarked on the assaults and property damage committed by migrants, reports Kurier.
Calling the majority of the migrants “testosterone-driven Syrians”, Mr. Biro recounted the multiple reports of migrants carrying out, in his words, “extremely aggressive sexual assaults”.
He also detailed Afghan men had slashed the seats of the trains that were transporting them to Germany because they refused to sit where Christians had previously sat.
Das schreibt der Chefredakteur (!) der Steirerkrone heute pic.twitter.com/9H860wHUl4
— Lukas Matzinger (@LukasMatzinger) October 25, 2015
The commentary provoked a negative reaction at the time with 37 complaints lodged against Mr. Biro. He took four weeks off from his position at the time, claiming that he had lost perspective and proportion of the situation.
Many, including the Austrian train company ÖBB, denied that Afghans had destroyed their seats, though cases of sexual assault have been rampant across Austria over the past year.
The prosecutor in the Styrian capital of Graz has confirmed they will be seeking charges against Biro for his comments after the case was brought to them by left-wing SOS Mitmensch. The group released a guide for Austrians earlier this year on how to successfully get people tried for hate speech crimes.
SOS Mitmensch describes itself as a pressure group for human rights and has been a staunch opponent of the anti-mass migration Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) who have significantly risen in the polls over the course of the migrant crisis. Head of the left-wing group, Alexander Pollak, has claimed that his organisation has been inundated with requests on how to report anti-migrant comments to the police.
While many private individuals in Germany and Austria have been successfully prosecuted for anti-migrant, or even migrant-critical rhetoric, the case against Mr. Biro marks the first time a member of the press has been prosecuted in Austria since the migrant crisis began.
A similar case in neighbouring Germany had been that of comedian Jan Böhmermann, who faced charges for insulting the President of Turkey in a crude poem he recited on his television programme; the charges against him were dropped by prosecutors earlier in October.
Even politicians are not immune from hate speech investigations. A Vienna prosecutor is currently looking into charges against FPÖ leader Heinz-Christian Strache over posts made on his Facebook page by other users that may be deemed inflammatory by Austrian law. The prosecutor is looking into whether Mr. Strache or his staff could be liable for not removing offensive comments fast enough.
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