Thursday, February 16, 2006

Just drop the ”code of conduct”

In the on-going debate about the Danish cartoons, some people are now suggesting that we should get a “code of conduct”, regulating how the media should treat sensitive subjects.

According to a story on Swedish public radio this morning, the EU is discussing a “code of conduct” as we speak. Franco Frattini, vice president of the EU Commission and responsible for issues like this, did not come to a meeting where the subject was discussed with MEPs and journalists. Highly suspicious.

The countries of the EU should be allowed to have their own ways of solving matters when the freedom of expression is taken too far. Like The Economist underlines (Leaders February 11th), no country permits completely free speech. In seven European countries you are not allowed to deny that the Holocaust took place. That makes perfect sense in for example Germany, but each country should decide limitations like these on their own, given for example the specific historical context.

So, the conclusion again is that freedom of expression is indeed a fundamental pillar in a democracy, but it should be handled with care and not needlessly offend others. And how it ought to be handled with care should not be decided in Brussels. The most important thing to do is not to shut down newspapers, but to engage in a respectful dialogue with the Muslim world. And in the long run, hopefully, things like democracy, human rights and freedom of expression can continue to spread around the world. The Economist again:
And freedom of expression, remember, is not just a pillar of western democracy, as sacred in its own way as Muhammad is to pious Muslims. It is also a freedom that millions of Muslims have come to enjoy or aspire themselves. Ultimately, spreading and strengthening it may be one of the best hopes for avoiding the incomprehension that can lead civilizations into conflict”.


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