“DEMOCRACY SHOULD BE CONSIDERED IN A BROADER CONTEXT THAN WE THINK”

Styria Media Group, the Kleine Zeitung and the “Presse” awarded the first Fritz Csoklich Democracy Prize at the Jewish Museum Vienna to Arik Brauer, a “builder of bridges with an unmistakeable voice”.

 

“Arik Brauer is a gifted raconteur, capable of making a story out of anything, and does so too – whether in the lyrics of his songs or in images through his art work” said jury-member Helga Rabl-Stadler marking the awarding of the 1st Fritz Csoklich Democracy Prize at the Jewish Museum, quoting from the explanatory statement by the distinguished jury. Fritz Csoklich was the long-serving editor-in-chief of the Kleine Zeitung and would have been 90 years old this year.

 

By way of laudation, Heinz Fischer, former President of Austria and, for many years, a friend of both Arik Brauer and Fritz Csoklich, emphasised that “the two of them could not have been more different, yet had so much in common. The idea of setting up a Fritz Csoklich prize is brilliant, and it is just as inspired and appropriate to award this prize to Arik Brauer. Both of them – Fritz Csoklich and Arik Brauer – are acknowledged mainstays of democracy and human dignity.”

“I find it important that people should understand that art can and must have a significant role in politics” said Arik Brauer on receiving a political prize for the first time. “In reality it is also a prize for art in itself, an affirmation that art is able to influence politics and society. It is with great joy and great pride that I receive this prize – and I am correspondingly eternally grateful.”

Wolfgang Sobotka, President of the National Council, highlighted the value of democracy as an approach that should be a concern “not just for politicians but for all Austrians. It should be considered in a much broader context than we typically think”. Addressing Arik Brauer, Sobotka said “Your speeches and works have regularly provoked debate – and that is democracy.”

In an interview with host and editor-in-chief of “Die Furche” Doris Helmberger-Fleckl, Styria CEO Markus Mair emphasised the significance of democracy and the media: “Independent media are fundamental to democracy and pluralism, and have enormous responsibility to serve as an anchor in these times, as an intellectual basis, just as Fritz Csoklich solidly acted for them, regardless of the prevailing zeitgeist.” Hubert Patterer, editor-in-chief of the Kleine Zeitung, also highlighted Csoklich’s significance and personality, saying “that combative love of liberty, the theme of his life, outwardly and inwardly, the dedication with which he sought out and promoted understanding between differing intellectual movements of the times, his embodied Homeric laughter and his unpretentious idea of a mass-market paper with an intellectual profile. We give credit in opposition to this supposed contradiction, in his name too”. At the prize giving, Rainer Nowak, editor-in-chief of the “Presse”, also emphasised the role and tasks of the media in a functioning democracy: “It is about classifying, curating, explaining and placing matters in context.”

This lively evening at the Jewish Museum received musical accompaniment from Timna Brauer and Jasmin Meiri-Brauer. The Fritz Csoklich Democracy Prize was designed by artist and calligrapher Claudia Dzengel in 2019 and will be awarded annually from now on. There is an associated award of 10,000 euros.

 

About the Fritz Csoklich Democracy Prize: The prize is intended for national and foreign individuals from the worlds of politics, business, science, religion and journalism. Against the background of growing societal polarisation, ever slackening social structures, increasing difficulties in common understanding, doubts regarding the European project and growing nationalism, prizewinners must have made a contribution to positive change in these developments. In such a way as to overcome differences, breach physical and mental barriers and thereby strengthen democracy at its core and understanding for the European project.

Jury: Michael Csoklich, journalist; Valerie Fritsch, author; Franz-Stefan Gady, political analyst and correspondent; Thomas Götz, dep. ed.-in-chief Kleine Zeitung; Edeltraud Hanappi-Egger, rector WU Vienna; Sabine Herlitschka, CEO Infineon Technologies Austria; Dzevad Karahasan, author; Christian Kircher, MD Bundestheater Holding; Franz Küberl, former president Caritas Austria; Konrad Paul Liessmann, philosopher; Markus Mair, CEO Styria Media Group; Rainer Nowak, ed.-in-chief and MD Die Presse, Hubert Patterer, ed.-in-chief and MD Kleine Zeitung; Peter Plaikner, media consultant; Manfred Prisching, chair of Kleine Zeitung editorial council, Helga Rabl-Stadler, president of Salzburg Festival; Thomas Spann, dir. Kleine Zeitung; Lojze Wieser, author; Erwin Zankel, former ed.-in-chief Kleine Zeitung.

Fotos: Katharina Fröschl-Roßboth