Human Rights Organisations Alarmed by Police Chief’s Lawsuit Against Comedian
The case is about a satirical column from September 2021 in which Florian Scheuba suggested erecting a monument to Andreas Holzer because in 2015 he reacted to information from one of the later backers of the Ibiza video about allegations of corruption against HC Strache by “refusing to work”, thereby “triggering” the creation of the Ibiza video in the first place. This led to Holzer suing Scheuba for defamation in 2022, which Scheuba won at first instance, but theVienna Higher Regional Court overturned the acquittal in March 2023 and the trial must now be repeated.
“In a democratic understanding of the law, Scheuba’s statements, which he obviously made in the context of a satirical column, are clearly covered by freedom of expression and artistic freedom. With his lawsuit against one of the country’s best-known cabaret artists, the highest police officer in the country is headed for confrontation with all journalists, comedians, and the fundamental values that he should be defending as a police officer,” says Thomas Lohninger, Executive Director of epicenter.works.
“Attacks on freedom of expression and artistic freedom must not be tolerated in a free, democratic society. According to the European Court of Human Rights, satire is a form of artistic expression and social commentary that exaggerates and distorts reality in order to provoke and move people. This is exactly what this case is about,” says Shoura Zehetner-Hashemi, Executive Director of Amnesty International Austria.
“The case focuses on the requirements of pluralism, tolerance, and openness in a democratic society. Even offensive, shocking and disturbing opinions are protected and must remain so,” says Manfred Nowak from the Vienna Forum for Democracy and Human Rights.
Scheuba’s statement in his column that a thorough investigation after the initial indications in 2015 would have made the “Ibiza video” superfluous is suggesting itself based on the findings of the Ibiza Investigation Committee. It was also made in September 2021 by the authors of this letter in their statement at the start of the trial against Julian Hessenthaler and it was also considered to be “sufficient factual substrate” in the statement of grounds for Scheuba’s acquittal in the first instance. In the reversal of the judgement by the Vienna Higher Regional Court, however, the “lack of proof of the truth” is cited as a decisive criterion for overturning the decision of the Regional Court for Criminal Matters. The fact that Florian Scheuba is one of the most successful satirists in the country and that he wrote the text in a clearly satirical manner is also not given any weight due to his journalistic activities.
We attended the first day of the trial on 12 December 2023. Thomas Lohninger summarised it in a live ticker.
We also attended the trial on 13 February 2024 at the Vienna Regional Court and reported on it in a live ticker. After the Vienna Higher Regional Court decision, however, Scheuba was found guilty as expected. He and his lawyer, Maria Windhager, have already announced an appeal on the grounds of nullity of guilt and sentence.
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