The following letter of complaint was sent to the Austrian Press Council by lawyer Dr. Eva Maria Barki – a resident of Vienna – in connection with a front-page article published in the 10-16 June edition of Weekend Magazine Wien, a local weekly news magazine, prior to Hungary’s match with Austria early on in the Euro 2016 tournament.
Below, we are publishing the English-language translation of the original German text.
Vienna, 13 June 2016
In the attachment, I have allowed myself the attachment of a copy of of the article from the 10-16 June 2016 (No. 11) edition of Weekend Magazin Wien with the request of forwarding the following notice to the competent body for the examination of launching an independent inquiry.
The incriminated article was published on the weekend prior to the European football championship match between Austria and Hungary in Paris and represents a serious breach of the code of honour of the Austrian press.
The magazine’s cover features the heads of Chancellor Christian Kern of Austria and Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of Hungary in an opposition, looking each other in the eye and portrayed with the national colours red-white-red on the cheeks of Christian Kern and red-white-green on the cheeks of Viktor Orbán. The title reads:
Good Against Evil
Austria Against Hungary: More than a Game
On the cover, the word GOOD is positioned under the photograph of the Austrian Chancellor, while the word EVIL is seen beneath the photograph of the Hungarian Prime Minister.
Apart from the appearance of the cover page in itself amounting to slander not only of the Hungarian Prime Minister but also the Hungarian national football team and the Hungarian people, this was carried further by the following article bearing the title “Authoritarian Football State”.
Even if one sees the content of the criticism as free expression of opinion in the spirit of the principle of press freedom – while biased depiction and imperfect research can likely be objected to – , the content nevertheless has to be seen and evaluated in its full context, namely that a football match is more than a game, a struggle between Good and Evil, where the Good is represented by Austria and the Evil by Hungary.
The entire article goes beyond permittable criticism in an attempt to portray the Hungarian Prime Minister in a negative light in the eyes of the reader through his liking of football, the support of football as a national issue and the erection of a new football stadium, which is also evident from the title “Authoritarian Football State”. A private foundation of the football academy is labelled “perfidious” and the erection of a new municipality office and secondary school are also criticised.
The article is especially hurtful because football has an exceptional status in Hungary not only since the legendary national team of Ferenc Puskás and his teammates and can be identified as a national sport.
The clear aim of the article is to degrade and stir contempt for Hungary, which especially prior to the football match is suitable to arouse emotions against Hungary and simultaneously to injure the dignity of the entire Hungarian nation. Thus, the article is also in the proximity of the punishable criminal offence of incitement (Paragraph 283 of the Penal Code).
The content of the article should be condemned also because it represents a violaiton of the spirit and ethics of sport. Sport not only has globally consistent rules and a high standard of ethics in the spirit of fairness and respect for others, but sport and especially football should serve tolerance and understanding between peoples and not incite and arouse peoples against each other, as the mentioned article does.
While it is true that there are differences between Austria and Hungary concerning various political questions, sport should nevertheless form a bridge of understanding and connect peoples across conflicts. Large sports are exactly suited for this pupose and should serve understanding between peoples instead of being politically instrumentalised.
At any rate, the mentioned article has the ability to unleash cosiderable potential of mobilisation on the occasion of the European Championship, encourage acts of aggression and exploit sport incite Austrians and Hungarians against each other.
The piece therefore represents a major ifringement of the code of honour of the Austrian press, as well as an infringement of the right to freedom of expression as included in Article 10 in the European Convention on Human Rights, which in its Paragraph 2 also demands responsibility. This requirement of responsibility has been abused to a considerable extent and has resulted in the damage of the image of both the Austrian press and Austria through the extnesive coverage the article has found in Hungary.
With the present letter, the
is made to forward the issue to the competent body for the examination of launching an independent inquiry, and the subsequent disclosure of the decision arrived at.
Dr. Eva Maria Baski