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Austria Interior Minister escapes sack

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Far-right Interior Minister Herbert KicklFar-right Austria Interior Minister Herbert Kickl

(dpa/NAN) Far-right Interior Minister Herbert Kickl, on Wednesday survived a vote of no confidence in Austria’s Parliament, called over a ministry proposal to curb critical media and to highlight foreign crime suspects.

Liberal and left-wing opposition parties lost the vote as a majority of legislators from the governing centre-right People’s Party (OeVP) and Kickl’s Freedom Party (FPOe) backed the minister.

The scandal erupted on Tuesday when local media published a memo by an Interior Ministry spokesman in which he asked police press officers to limit cooperation with several newspapers.

In addition, the spokesman proposed focusing on the nationalities of suspects in the future and highlighting crimes committed by asylum seekers.

“You pose a serious danger to press and media freedom in this country,’’ parliamentarian Niki Scherak of the liberal Neos told Kickl in the National Council, Austria’s lower house.

Scherak accused Kickl of copying right-wing figures such as Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini or U.S. President Donald Trump.

The minister distanced himself from the plan to blacklist certain media, but he defended the policy of naming the nationality of suspects.

“People have a right to be fully informed,’’ he said, drawing a link between sexual crimes and the “failed migration policies’’ of previous centrist governments.

While Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s conservative OeVP did not back the no-confidence motion, OeVP legislator Werner Amon signaled that trust in the controversial minister is wearing thin.

“To rely on confidence is to exhaust confidence,’’ he said, quoting German poet Bertold Brecht.

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