Austrians can swear at politicians, rules court

People entitled to express 'provocative, shocking' opinions as part of freedom of expression right, ruling states

News Desk March 03, 2018
Protests swept the country when the far-Right joined the ruling coalition. PHOTO: AFP

Austrians have the right to swear at their politicians and make insulting gestures at them, a court has ruled.

The unusual ruling comes after Heinz-Christian Strache, the leader of the far-Right Freedom Party (FPÖ), sued a group of left-wing activists over a video in which they attacked him over his policies.

The recording, which has been widely shared on social media, features activists saying swear words and extending their middle fingers to the camera.

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Strache, who is vice-chancellor in Austria’s coalition government, argued the video broke the country’s laws against public insults and defaming the state.

But an appeals court this week upheld a ruling by a lower court that the video was protected under freedom of speech laws.

Austrians are entitled to express “provocative and shocking” political opinions and they are a “fundamental part of freedom of expression”, the court ruled.

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The video, made by Turn Left Now, features groups of activists singling out Freedom Party policies they disagree with.

“Because we stand in solidarity with refugees and Muslims we say these things", one group says.

“Because the FPÖ’s policies against women remind us of the Nazi Mother’s Cross, we use bad words,” another group says, referring to a Nazi medal given to women who bore at least four children.

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The ruling comes as Strache is himself facing legal action in a separate case brought by Austria’s national broadcaster.

The ORF is suing the FPÖ leader for libel over a series of Facebook posts in which he accused it of spreading “fake news”, “lies” and “propaganda.

Strache’s party has been involved in repeated controversies since it joined the coalition government of Sebastian Kurz last year.

A senior party leader was forced to resign after it emerged a student fraternity he headed has published a songbook containing pro-Holocaust lyrics.

This article originally appeared on The Telegraph


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