Another digression: Freedom of speech and discrimination laws in Denmark
Firstly, the Danish constitution guarantees freedom of religion, in section 70. Similarly, sections 77-79 grant the freedoms of speech, association and assembly. Of course, freedom of speech doesn't mean the right to say anything without consequences. The text of section 77 (my emphasis added) makes this quite clear:
Section 77 -- Freedom of Speech
Any person shall be entitled to publish his thoughts in printing, in writing, and in speech, provided that he may be held answerable in a court of justice. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.
In other words, the government of Denmark cannot under any circumstances censor a newspaper (or any other publication). However, the newspaper can be brought to civil court for defamatory statements, or to criminal court for transgressions against various laws prohibiting inciting to criminal acts, racist utterances, etc.
The Danish penal code contains several provisions limiting free speech. For instance, there is the article on blasphemy, article 140. However, this article has not been successfully invoked since 1938. For instance, the Danish Kristeligt Folkeparti ("Christian People's Party") tried unsuccessfully to invoke it against Danish artist Claus Deleuran's comic book Rejsen til Saturn ("The Voyage to Saturn") in 1980. The comic satirized Christianity as a money-grubbing religion, among other things.
The penal code also contains article 266b, which specifically makes it a crime to disseminate discriminatory utterances based on race, colour, nationality, ethnicity, creed, or sexual orientation. The maximum penalty is 2 years in jail.
Article 266b was introduced in 1971, in order to satisfy the provisions of the United Nations Convention Against Racial Discrimination (1965).
Now, having a law on the books is one thing. Prosecuting people is another matter, especially in the very sensitive interaction between a free press' right to freely print even provocative articles, and a reasonable limit on "hate speech". In this regard, it is worth noting that a significant instance of case law on the subject predates the Muhammad caricature controversy by over a decade:
In 1994, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Jersild v. Denmark, a case dealing with free speech in the media, and racist utterances.
In 1985, Jens Olaf Jersild, a Danish TV journalist, had made a TV documentary dealing with a group of racist youths, and in the course of the programme, he allowed them considerable leeway in making very inflammatory racist remarks. This led to a criminal case under article 266b against the youths, Jersild, and the programme controller, Lasse Jensen, for disseminating racist utterances.
The accused were convicted (although fairly mild sentences were imposed), and the case was appealed all the way to the Danish Supreme Court, Højesteret. When the verdict was upheld in the Højesteret, Jersild appealed to the European Court of Human Rights. In 1994, he won a judgement in his favour, based largely in the fact that he hadn't endorsed the racist statements in the programme.
As a result of the Jersild case, case law on the subject of discriminatory remarks in the Danish media is strongly in favour of the media's right to report anything, however odious or discriminatory, so long as it is not endorsed.
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