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Corruption in Austria: Why has ORF's editor-in-chief resigned?

The Local Austria
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Corruption in Austria: Why has ORF's editor-in-chief resigned?
A demonstrator wearing a mask with the face of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz and dressed as a prisoner in handcuffs is seen during a protest in front of the headquarters of the Austrian People's Party OeVP in Vienna on October 7, 2021, a day after Kurz was implicated in a media corruption scandal. (Photo by ALEX HALADA / AFP)

Austria’s graft scandal continues to dismantle political and media careers as ORF’s editor-in-chief Matthias Schrom steps down from the role. Here's why.

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Matthias Schrom is no longer editor-in-chief of TV news at Austrian national broadcaster ORF after he resigned from the role on Wednesday (November 9th).

The move comes after Schrom was ordered to go on leave on Monday pending an investigation into claims he exchanged friendly notes with disgraced former far-right leader and vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache, Der Standard reported.

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Roland Weißmann, Director General at ORF, said: "I accept Matthias Schrom's offer to resign his position as editor-in-chief and thus bear the personal consequences of the published chats. 

“Even though Matthias Schrom's management of his office to date has been impeccable and ORF TV has been very successful with millions of people in Austria over the past four years, it is precisely the great trust in our reporting and the uncompromising credibility of our journalists that make a step like this seem inevitable.”

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What happened and when?

In February 2019, Strache contacted Schrom by email to complain about reporting on ZIB 24 and make recommendations about personnel at the media organisation, according to Der Standard.

The complaint was reportedly about negative statements made against the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), of which Strache was a member at the time. Schrom then responded and described ORF1 as “more left-wing” than ORF2 before advising Strache on tips for intervening at the station.

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Schrom maintains that Strache’s requests were not met, either by adjustments to media content or in personnel appointments at ORF.

The latest revelations are related to the so-called “Ibizagate” corruption scandal that broke in 2019. It has since rocked Austrian politics, with leaked material revealing close links between top politicians, business people and the media.

The most high profile people involved in the scandal were Strache and former Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. Strache resigned as Vice Chancellor and was expelled from the FPÖ in 2019, and Kurz stepped down from politics in 2021.

For more on the Ibiza scandal, read this report by The Local.

Who else is involved in this latest scandal?

On Monday, Rainer Nowak, publisher and editor-in-chief of top newspaper Die Presse, also relinquished his day to day duties at the title

However, Nowak is implicated in chats with Thomas Schmid, former Secretary General for the Ministry of Finance. 

READ NEXT: EXPLAINED: Why is Austria so rich?

The Tiroler Tageszeitung reports that Nowak had aspirations to become the boss of ORF and appealed to Schmid in 2019 for support to make it happen. Nowak has since apologised for the communications and an investigation is

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underway at the publication.

Schmid was a key ally of former Chancellor Kurz and is now a witness in the ongoing corruption hearings taking place against dozens of politicians and officials linked to Kurz’s time in office.

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