Freedom of the Press - Energy Styria Tries to Intimidate and Criminalize Press Photographer

Media Austria sends observers for court case

(Graz/Vienna, 5th May 2017) “Energy Styria” (Energie Steiermark), or rather its subsidiary “Murkraftwerk Graz Errichtungs- und Betriebs GmbH” tries to criminalize the non-violent resistance against the rooting out of trees because of the heavily disputed Mur power station Graz-Puntigam and to intimidate activists.

Power station builders make press photographer the ringleader

On Monday, 8th May 2017, Franz Keppel (“Huchen Franz”), ichthyologist and environmental photographer working for “Save the Mur”, stands trial at the district court Graz East. He also takes pictures for specialist publications and for regional media such as Kleine Zeitung or Steirerkrone. The accusation is: he is said to have “occupied the closed-off building site” and thus has committed “interference with possession”, when the power station builders started with the rooting out of the huge Au trees on February 15th 2017 at 11:44 after the lost local elections.

The prosecuting party even brazenly claims that the press photographer has got over the hoarding and has “stirred up younger activists”, with which the prosecuting party obviously wants to denounce him even as the ringleader, that is, the inciter of ostensibly unlawful actions.

Probably to intimidate the activists, the lawyer’s office ‘Lehofer & Lehofer’ also announces that the power station builders reserve the right “to legally demand the payment of all damages caused by unlawful behaviour” because ostensibly “further demonstrations on the site of the Mur power station are announced again and again by so-called power station opponents” – no evidence is given – and so there is a danger of recurrence.

The accusations go up in smoke

Too bad that almost nothing is right: the entry to the building site was wide open and the press photographer merely has documented a non-violent short demonstration which is covered by the freedom of assembly as defined in the constitutional law according to article 11 of the European Human Rights Convention (EHRC)1. The press photographer was in the demonstation area in the execution of the protected freedom of information and freedom of the press according to article 10 EHRC and left the area on his own without having been told to do so and after having filmed Dr. Romana Ull, ecologist and vice-president of the nature conservation association, when being reprimanded by the building-site management.

Special chutzpah: the lawyer’s office, which is obviously sloppily working and has already attracted attention by harassing and unfounded threats of legal actions on behalf of the Austria’s Freedom Party against the well-known data scientist Uwe Sailer, even demanded a fee for an absolutely unnecessary declaration of injunction with wrong allegations!

The power station builders of the ‘EStAG’ demand that the press photographer not be allowed anymore to enter the whole Mur area of the public water estate between ‘Radetzkybrücke’ up to far beyond the ‘Puntigammerbrücke” including cycleways.

Freedom of the press and freedom of demonstration are in danger!

From a democratic-political point of view it is alarming that the province of Styria, owner of the ‘EStAG’ as the “most valuable share” and whose board is nominated party-politically, is making propaganda for the expensive and superfluous power station everywhere – even in schools! – not only with the money of the population as users of electricity and tax payers, but also tries to intimidate those citizens who stand up against the power station which has been approved merely by means of an exceptional regulation.

Unfortunately, the local media sponsored by political advertisements and the EStAG report so little about the increasing resistance against the controversial power station, that a Mur activist has lodged a broadcast complaint against the biased and misleading reporting of the “ORF regional studio of the Styria” with the radio and television supervisory authority (= RTR).

It is only logical to train the sights on press photographers, for a story is only told in the media demanding attention when there is also an “awesome photograph”.

This information is also issued to “reporters without frontiers”, the journalists’ union, the “Austrian Journalist Party” as well as to “Amnesty International” with the request to send out additional observers for court cases.

Data of the trial:

Murkraftwerk Graz Errichtungs- und Betriebs GmbH against Franz K., press photographer
Monday, 8th May 2017, 8.30 a.m. (expected end: 9.15 a.m.)
Trial room B, district court Graz
Radetzkystraße 27, 8010 Graz

Following: trial Mur power station against Romana Ull

Further information:

  • ORF „AM Schauplatz“: Das Recht der Tiere (4.5.2017) mit „Huchen Franz“
    Über den Huchen und seine Gefährdung durch Kraftwerksspülungen http://tvthek.orf.at/profile/Am-Schauplatz/1239/Am-Schauplatz-Das-Recht-der-Tiere/13928703/Am-Schauplatz-Das- Recht-der-Tiere/14041590 https://www.ots.at/presseaussendung/OTS_20170503_OTS0151/am-schauplatz-reportage-ueber-das-recht-der-tiere
  • Save the Mur (Rette die Mur - German only)
    http://www.rettetdiemur.at

1 According to the European Court of Hurman Rights, sit-ins and squattings are covered by the freedom of assembly according to article 11 of the European Human Rights Convention (EHRC).

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