German data protection agency criticizes Austrian Ibiza video | News | DW | 20.05.2019
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German data protection agency criticizes Austrian Ibiza video

A German data protection agency has suggested German media outlets were wrong to publish video that exposed Heinz-Christian Strache's allegedly corrupt intentions.

News agencies violated privacy rights by publishing a secretly filmed recording of the now-former vice-chancellor of Austria, an official German data protection agency claimed on Sunday.

Stefan Brink, who heads the Data Protection and Freedom of Information agency in the German region of Baden-Württemberg, believes the tape of Heinz-Christian Strache has far-reaching negative repercussions. "If we cheat political opponents, violate their privacy and even commit criminal wrongdoing, we ultimately harm our political culture and us all," he said in a post on Twitter.

In the video, filmed in Ibiza just before the Austrian elections in 2017 when Strache was head of the FPÖ and designated vice chancellor, he appeared to offer lucrative public contracts in exchange for political support. The far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) that Strache represents, were vying for power at the time and the tape shows the 49-year-old talking to a supposed Russian investor, urging her to buy Austria's highest-circulation newspaper, the Kronen Zeitung, promote the FPÖ publicly and in return receive public contracts. 

The video led to Strache's resignation on Saturday.

Read more: Austria video 'a trap' to sour relations with Moscow, Russian media say

Brink, however, does not believe it legitimizes the right to publish the leaked film. German publications Spiegel and Süddeutsche Zeitung were targeted by the data protection commissioner after both outlets published the recording. They had argued that the video was of interest to the general public as Strache was designated vice chancellor and openly mulling over giving out contracts in exchange for favors.

The journalists also pointed out that they only published those parts of the recording containing information that was of interest to the general public. Other parts of the recording containing conversation related to private matters were not published.

But Brink said that the press must adhere to rights of privacy and that there was a debate to be had in this area. The fact that the video was made covertly only adds to the wrongdoing, according to Brink.

Read more: Austria's far-right show their true colors

Meanwhile, Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen has called for fresh elections following a tumultuous 18-month reign.

"I plead for elections, if possible at the beginning of September," the president said in Vienna, while protesters gathered outside singing the Vengaboys' 1999 hit "We're Going to Ibiza!"

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