23 Oct 2017

MediaToo -- journalist exposes sexual harassment at Austrian newspaper

Austrian Newspaper Wiener Zeitung will have to get a new editor in chief. Why? Because the current one was just accused of sexual harassment towards a fellow journalist.

Julia Sahlender
Julia Sahlender Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
MediaToo -- journalist exposes sexual harassment at Austrian newspaper - NewsMavens
The #metoo effect spills over into Austria's news industry Surdumihail/Pixabay (CC0)

Why this story matters:

MeToo

On Friday the news broke that Reinhard Göweil, the editor in chief of the top Austrian newspaper Wiener Zeitung was sacked from his position with immediate effect.

Because the paper is state-owned, and Austria voted in parliamentary elections just over a week ago, a lot of people started speculating on social media whether the sudden move was politically motivated.

Some argued that this might be the first sign of a looming ÖVP/FPÖ government, as Göweil was appointed editor-in-chief under Chancellor Werner Faymann from rival party SPÖ in 2009. It wouldn't be unheard of for new people to take over the editor in chief position or other top management roles at the paper after a new government was in place.

Göweil himself seemed to play along with the theory on Twitter. But in response to one such claim, the paper's Twitter account responded by saying that the dismissal was labor-law related and had nothing to do with politics.

Later that same day, Austrian journalist Hanna Herbst posted the following statement regarding the incident on her Facebook page.

In it, she says that, while Göweil is presumed innocent until proven guilty, his dismissal was not politically motivated but due to a sexual harassment complaint against him. Herbst writes about a female journalist whom Göweil sent an inappropriate message.

According to Herbst, the woman also went to an "equal treatment spokesperson", and then to Göweil's employer, the Republic of Austria. Meanwhile, other journalists showed their solidarity for him with a lot of support on Twitter.

Then on Saturday, Göweil himself admitted to the Die Presse newspaper that he made a mistake. He said his inappropriate message was "a stupid Facebook message" and that he apologized to the woman right after. Since it all supposedly happened in January, he says he can't explain why this is "popping-up now".

And we probably won't know until the female journalist in question decides to make a public statement which, according to Hanna Herbst's post, she is planning on doing in her own time.

But maybe it was the current spirit of empowerment amongst victims of sexual harassment and abuse after the allegations against Harvey Weinstein became public. Maybe it was the social media campaign #metoo, that was supposed to highlight how many women were affected by sexual harassment. Whatever her reason, it was brave and important of her to make this public.

Details from the story:

  • Wiener Zeitung is one of Austria's quality newspapers and it's the world's oldest operating newspaper
  • The news about the firing of Reinhard Göweil broke on Friday, 20 Oct.
  • After the news became public people started to make assumptions about the reason for the abrupt decision. The presumption that it could have something to do with last Sunday's elections and the future government was shared by some on Twitter. The paper denied those rumors on social media.
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