A couple of weeks ago our Danish correspondent Kepiblanc sent us a report about Tøger Seidenfaden and his Day of Infamy. Mr. Seidenfaden is the editor-in-chief of the Danish newspaper Politiken, and his infamy was to apologize on behalf of his newspaper to the descendents of the prophet Mohammed for the Mohammed Cartoons.
This groveling did not sit well with most Danes, and many of them now consider Tøger Seidenfaden to be insane. Some of the dissidents are employees of Politiken itself.
Thirty-eight of the newspaper’s employees have published a protest op-ed in Politiken. Many thanks to our Danish correspondent TB for his translation:
We do not support the paper’s settlement
In an op-ed, 38 employees of Politiken distance themselves from the paper’s settlement with the descendants of Muhammad.
We, the editorial staff at Politiken and writers of this letter, hereby wish to distance ourselves from the settlement that the leadership of Politiken made with eight organizations which apparently consist of 94,923 descendants of the prophet Muhammad.
The organizations have warned of a lawsuit against Politiken and a whole range of Danish dailies because the papers, as part of their news coverage reprinted Kurt Westergaard’s caricature of the prophet Muhammad.
In the settlement Politiken apologizes for the violation that many Muslims felt as a result of the reprinting of the cartoon, while the eight organizations on their side promises not to go through “legal steps or administrative initiatives against Politiken“.
We would like to state the following:
In our opinion, Politiken has nothing to apologize for. We have been covering this issue in the exact same way as we would cover any other newsworthy issue.
The settlement leaves behind the notion that we regret our journalistic work, and we see no reason for that.
We fear that the settlement, in the way it has been formulated, will have the effect that editorial freedom for the journalists of Politiken will now become restricted. It is true that the chief editor Tøger Seidenfaden has ensured that Politiken did not renounce its right to reprint the drawing made by Kurt Westergaard if found necessary in the future. This right, however, is not part of the current text — which would have been preferred when taking into account the character of this whole case.
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The settlement leaves the unfortunate notion that Politiken apologizes, not of its own initiative and as a result of thorough consideration, but because the paper is under pressure from Muslim organizations.
On top of that the other part of this settlement is not going to bring anything in return — for example, to make an explicit recognition of the media’s freedom of speech. The only thing the other side is going to do is to drop the court case, which we find unfair in the first place.
Furthermore, it is our perception that this case is so important, since it is about the principle of freedom of speech, that a trial would have been desirable, compared to this so-called settlement.
As citizens in a democratic society, we are of course supporters of dialogue and peaceful coexistence. But we have an urgent need as well to underline that we as journalists are not part of the diplomatic corps. Journalists’ role in a democracy is not primarily to contribute to peace and reconciliation, but a) to report reality as precisely as possible and b) to nurture the debate about society.
We recognize that the media also have an obligation to act responsibly, which obligation is already very well regulated by the law. But modern newspapers contain articles every day which will unavoidably upset individuals or groups.
Media in a free, democratic society should continue daring to challenge perceptions, despite any political and religious divisions.
Anders Hjort, Anders Legarth Schmidt, Bo Søndergaard, Carsten Andersen; Carsten Godtfredsen, Christian Hüttemeier Kjeldsen, Christina Zemanova Ekelund, Claus Nørregaard, Erik Jensen, Esben Kjær, Flemming Ytzen, Hans Davidsen-Nielsen, Henrik Kaufholz, Jakob Sorgenfri Kjær, Jens Lenler, Kjeld Hybel, Kaare Skovmand, Lars Bøgegaard, Lotte Thorsen, Martin Kaae, Martin Aagaard, Michael Bech, Michael Lund, Nikolaj Lauta, Nilas Nordberg Heinskou, Nils Thorsen, Ove Kusnitzoff, Ole Wejse Svarrer, Per Dabelsteen, Peter Lembo, Peter Thygesen, Søren Astrup, Søren Dilling, Thomas Flensburg og Tine Maria Winther
For more on the same topic, see Christopher Hitchens at Slate: “Yamani or Your Life”.