Our expatriate Dutch correspondent H. Numan reports on a recent travesty of justice in the Netherlands. He says, “The hatchet fell — freedom of speech is now dead in Holland.”
Here’s his translation of an article from last Friday’s De Telegraaf, followed by his own commentary:
Webmaster is punishable for extremism
ZUTPHEN — Owners and managers of websites can be held responsible if visitors to their sites place extremist texts on it.
The magistrate [‘politie rechter’; lowest court level] sentenced the manager of the site ‘rechtser.com’ to a fine of €750, from which €250 is probational. Contrary to other similar cases, the condemned hadn’t written the offending texts himself, but merely forgotten to remove them.
According to the MDI the sentence is a step forward in addressing digital discrimination. “The judge clearly indicated that the contents of texts placed on sites are the responsibility of the manager,” said MDI director Niels van Tamelen.
The organization tipped the department of Justice about the offending texts on the site. “Important is the signature (political style) of the site. The manager placed negative news items about Muslims and links to extremist sites. He could therefore expect that punishable texts would be placed on his site, and he had address that.”
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According to councilor Bertjan Souman from Epe a slippery slope has appeared: “The site was for some time actively controlled by my client. He wasn’t able to manage it properly due to a lot of work. He only found out something was wrong when he was arrested. The writers of the offending articles were not prosecuted by the police at all.”
H. Numan’s commentary:
It appears to be just a minor news item, but it most certainly is not. Freedom of speech was thoroughly axed by the court. Of course the writer of an article is responsible for his article. The publisher is not, or at least to a much lesser extent.
What has happened is the creation of a precedent: a relatively unknown website run by a non-famous person met the full wrath of multicultural (in)justice. The sentence may seem light, but is far from it. €750 is a lot of money. What people may or may not know is that most Dutch people have insurance to cover lawsuits, but… this insurance only covers civil litigation. Criminal lawsuits are not covered by insurance. The lawyer’s fee (€200 per hour) is therefore not covered, not even for such a clearly incompetent lawyer as Mr. (Meester, the title for a Dutch graduate in law) Bertjan Souman is. I have no idea how much a lawyer would charge for this bumbling piece of work — if you can call it even work — but at least 20 to 40 hours, if not more. Which is about four full months’ wages for the webmaster in question.
In America it is maybe possible to pay a lawyer according to results (I am not familiar with US law), or possibly tell this incompetent nincompoop to fleece somebody else. This is not the case in the Netherlands. You pay. Regardless of the outcome.
Why incompetent? First of all the MDI, which in Holland is nicknamed “the thought Gestapo”, ‘forgot’ to inform the webmaster about the offending items, and give him some time to remove them. The webmaster only found out something was wrong when he was arrested by the police. A lawyer worth his
saltgold would have pushed for an innocent verdict. He didn’t, as it seems. The judge seems to have forgotten to mention this extremely relevant point in his ruling. It is more than likely that an appeal would change the verdict dramatically. However, an appeal costs money. A lot of money. A lot of money the webmaster simply doesn’t have.
Now consider the double standard applied: some items may be offensive, sure. But why does the MDI not apply the same standards on www.maroc.nl? Almost daily people post much more offensive texts on that forum; they cheer and rejoice if Dutch (or American) soldiers die in Afghanistan, and pray it will be better next time (better = more soldiers’ deaths). The number of highly offensive postings on this board about the resentment those people feel about the country they are born in (!) is almost countless. But not one single posting, nor a webmaster or moderator has been charged. It is not likely that one will be.
Read the underlined sentence “Important is the signature (political style) of the site” again. What is the message here? We judge a site on what we, the MDI, find acceptable or not. If the site is considered acceptable by us (based on what grounds?), anything goes. As is obviously the case with maroc.nl. If the site is considered by us as not acceptable? We will find, just as the Cheka did under Stalin, reasons to kill it.
The MDI together with the ministry of Justice twice attacked far too well-known sites: first Gregorius Nekschot, then GeenStijl. In both cases they had to give in, and lose a lot of face. Not so in this case. Which means that the precedent has been created, and based on this ruling bloggers can be muzzled almost without restriction.
Recently I met a few Dutch upper-class retirees who fully believe in the absolute justice of the legal system we have in the Netherlands. They refused to even listen to or consider anything negative about it. It is the very best in the world! Frankly speaking I don’t agree. I think the judges are rather biased to say the least and if you are neither a pauper nor very rich, it is next to impossible to apply for an appeal.
Not only the webmaster, but Lady Justice was raped in court.
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