Two prominent Austrian journalists step aside over graft scandal

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Two prominent Austrian journalists step aside over graft scandal
A photo taken on October 18, 2021 shows a copy of Austrian news magazine 'Falter' featuring an illustration of former Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz on its front page amid various other Austrian newspapers in Vienna. (Photo by JOE KLAMAR / AFP)

Two prominent Austrian editors are stepping aside over a wide-ranging graft scandal that led to the resignation of top politicians, including former conservative chancellor Sebastian Kurz, their news outlets, Die Presse and ORF, said Monday.


The so-called "Ibizagate" corruption scandal that broke in 2019 has rocked Austrian politics, with leaked material revealing close links between top politicians, business people and the media.


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Rainer Nowak, publisher and editor-in-chief of top newspaper Die Presse, will relinquish his day to day duties at the title pending an internal probe of the allegations against him, his group announced.

Also on Monday, public broadcaster ORF ordered senior editor Matthias Schrom to go on leave pending an internal probe. According to the leaks, Nowak exchanged messages with an ally of ex-chancellor Kurz to discuss being appointed to ORF, while Schrom exchanged friendly notes with former far-right leader and vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache.

In a letter to readers last week, Nowak apologised for the messages' "tonality and inappropriate closeness".

Last month, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen called for wide-ranging reforms of the country's political culture following fresh
revelations relating to the scandal.

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The scandal broke in 2019 when a video filmed on the Spanish resort island of Ibiza showed Strache offering public contracts in exchange for campaign help to a fake Russian oligarch.


Ex-chancellor Kurz -- who had been hailed as the "Wunderkind" of Europe's conservatives -- quit last year after being implicated in the investigations that followed the video's publication. Kurz himself has dismissed any allegations of wrong-doing and has not been charged so far.


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