Free Speech Archive

You'll find articles about this subject in each of the items listed, even if the term does not necessarily occur within the headlines or descriptive text.

Jordan to try Danish artist over Mohammed cartoon

A Jordanian court will begin this month the trial of Danish cartoonist Kurt Westergaard over a controversial caricature of the Muslim Prophet Mohammed, but it was unclear if he will attend, AFP reports:

Zakarya Sheikh, spokesman for a group of local media outlets that sued Westergaard in 2008 for depicting Mohammed with a bomb in his turban, said on Thursday the artist and others have been summoned by a magistrates’ court in Amman to stand trial on April 25.”

A copy of the subpoena obtained by AFP says Westergaard “is accused of the crime of blasphemy.”

“These legal measures seek to prevent attempts to insult Islam and incite racial hatred against Muslims worldwide, particularly in Europe,” Sheikh told AFP.

In a later report AFP noted Westergaard said Friday he had not been informed of a trial against him in Jordan and said he would in any case not attend:

“In any case, I have no intention of going even if I am asked to,” Westergaard said Friday, pointing out that “I do not want to risk becoming familiar with the Jordanian prisons, which would be hell.”

“I have not done anything illegal in Denmark. I only did my job and I will always defend the right to freedom of expression,” he said, reiterating meanwhile that he had “never had the intention to offend Muslims and their faith with my caricature.”

The drawing, he insisted, was “a condemnation of terrorists who commit acts of terror in the name of Islam.” […]

Westergaard himself has faced numerous death threats and even assassination attempts since the initial publication of his drawing in the Jyllands-Posten daily, which has also been the target of a number of attack plots.

Indeed, DPA reports:

A Danish court Friday remanded a Tunisian-born man in custody on suspicion of plotting an attack on the Danish newspaper that published controversial caricatures of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. […]

Previously, three other Swedish men – also suspected of being part of the plot – remain in custody in Denmark.

All four men were arrested on December 29 in a joint operation conducted by Danish and Swedish police.

According to the police, the men had planned to kill as many people as possible during the attack on the Jyllands-Posten newspaper.

Our opinion: Muslims must understand that Islam is not above criticism, and that people in civilized countries will not sacrifice free speech — especially not when it comes to addressing acts of terrorism and other hate crimes committed in the name of Islam.

Christian News Agency Ordered To Register With Hungary’s Media Authority

BosNewsLife Fears Government Control

BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (BosNewsLife)– Central and Eastern Europe’s first online Christian news agency, BosNewsLife, was ordered Wednesday, February 9, to register with Hungarian authorities under a new controversial law that critics say is part of a crackdown on independent media.

Hungary’s media watchdog, the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH), said Budapest-based BosNewsLife had till June 30 to register. “As the website is already working, it will have to meet the conditions,” of relevant paragraphs of the new media legislation, wrote NMHH’s Ditta Boncz, who heads the authority’s tenders and legal department. Boncz made the announcement in an e-mail exchange with BosNewsLife.

It was not immediately clear what sanctions would follow in case BosNewsLife refuses to register with the NMHH, whose key members were appointed by Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party.

Under the new law electronic media such as BosNewsLife could face fines of over $100,000 and broadcasters nearly $1 million if their news coverage is deemed unbalanced, immoral or violating human dignity.

FOUNDER CONCERNED

BosNewsLife founder Stefan J. Bos, a Dutch journalist, said he was concerned about this development “as even English language media and foreign journalists working in Hungary will now be subject to government control.”

He said the agency ran “balanced but critical stories” about the media legislation and other government policies. “as well as am opinionated-column on Prime Minister Orban turning Hungary into Orbanistan” a reference to autocratic Central Asian nations. “I am wondering if that will increase the government pressure on BosNewsLife to register. It also reminds me to the Communist days when media, and churches, had to register.”

Wednesday’s registration order to BosNewsLife comes amid tensions between Hungary and the European Union over the media law. The EU’s executive branch, the European Commission, has expressed concerns that that the legislation may not be in line with European standards.

“The commission services have serious doubts as to the compatibility of the Hungarian legislation with Union law,” said Commissioner Neelie Kroes last month in a leaked letter. Parts of the law could violate basic EU rights guaranteeing the freedom of expression and information, she said.

“WIDE IMPOSITION”

Kroes wrote that the Commission is especially concerned about the “wide imposition” to media to provide balanced coverage and the registration requirement for all media, including print and online outlets.

She said the requirements “can be considered as an unjustified obstacle” for media providers that want to work from Hungary or provide their services for Hungary from another EU nation.

The legislation, which was introduced January 1, has been criticized by governments and newspapers across Europe, clouding Hungary’s six- month tenure of holding the EU presidency. Additionally, thousands of Hungarians demonstrated last month against the legislation in Budapest and other cities while on Wednesday, February 9, news emerged that Dutch and other international agricultural journalists have also protested.

Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn warned that if the EU does not pressure Hungary to change the law, “it will be very difficult to talk to China or Iran about human rights.”

CHANGING LAW?

Hungary has agreed to provide the Commission with proposals to change the law by Thursday, although Prime Minister Orban defended the legislation in an earlier interview. “Now we should have a more professional, legal discussion on the text. The text is very European,” he said.

“There is no special regulation, no special Hungarian legislation in this law. All paragraphs and elements of this [legislation] are imported from EU Countries. So I think it is a European regulation,” he said last month.

Bos said BosNewsLife would closely monitor the situation. “We are based in Budapest, Hungary, from where we thought we could independently cover international news stories on Christian persecution and other developments for both a Hungarian and worldwide audience. We hope Hungary will not turn back the clock more than 20 years when Hungary was a Communist-run Soviet satellite state.”

– BosNewsLife Ordered To “Register” With Hungary’s Media Authority, BosNewsLife, Feb. 9, 2011 — © BosNewsLife. Published in Religion News Blog by permission.