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Monday, 24 September 2018

Press censorship: Europe's most repressive nations

It was the Sun that set the standard back in the days when John Major was trying to fool the UK into giving away our financial freedom to Europe; 'Up Yours, Delors' was the unequivocal message that set the tone for a generation. And last week the paper was again on a burn, with its depiction of Herr Macron and Herr Tusk as armed gangsters:-

The Sun in its inimitable way embodies all that's good and right about press freedom in the UK - indeed, so used are the British to the exercise of this form of critique of the great and good, the entire population has taken it up on social media. Woe betide the inflated ego of any self-loving politician, the self-worth of dreary, humourless self-regarding Eurocrats and the pomposity of third-rate bling medal collectors, whose sciatica must surely blind them to the absurdity of their vulgar Ruritanian pretentions.

In fact, we probably regard the freedom with which the British press, British satirists and cartoonists and British sketch writers portray self-regarding nobs as being normal, Liberal and proper, but this is far from the case. The Sun's headline was just too much for the delicate sensibilities of the EU's unelected official in charge of Justice -  Věra Jourová, whose name must have been cut-and-pasted a thousand times by those too lazy to hunt for unfamiliar HTML code. You might think having an EU official in charge of Justice is a bit like having an Admiral on the government payroll in Switzerland, but there you are. Vera, let's call her, is distinctly unhappy, particularly with the Sun, and as she told the Guardian, she has a post-Brexit plan for a "European approach to media based on quality and smart regulation" that will deal with this British lèse-majesté.

I read that as her desire for an EU firewall that shuts off from the gentle sensibilities of the unelected masses in Brussels any access to the Sun. In fact, shuts off from the EU any foreign papers, news channels, blogs or other media that fail to recognise just how brilliant all the unelected officials are. Well, good luck to her. The EU is already far gone down that road; two images for you. The first, those nations in which it's a criminal act to be rude about a foreign Head of State, the second, those in which Defamation generally is a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment (dark red) or other penalties on conviction (light red)  

For the former, Germany, Denmark and Poland have the most draconian sentences of up to five, four and three years respectively. Poland will also jail citizens for three years for insulting their own Head of State - and the liberal little Netherlands will bang you up for five years for the same. 

I'd suggest that nations that appear on both maps are Europe's most repressive countries. Step up to the Iron Mask, then, Germany, Poland, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden. If you're a politician from these nations, Britain's unbelievably lax press laws must chafe something dreadful.

Never mind, dears. From next year you can cut yourselves off in fairyland and enjoy awarding eachother colourful little medals. Until the whole edifice comes tumbling down.


Dave_G said...

And, just because I can (but I don't know for how long) the whole institute of the EU and, in particular the despotic, unelected leadership, can kiss my hairy and somewhat spotty arse.

You're welcome.

Mark Wadsworth said...

"a bit like having an Admiral on the government payroll in Switzerland"

Switzerland has a navy, it's a couple of boats patrolling their half of Lake Constance etc.


right-writes said...

The British press might be free to comment in the way it seems fit, but it seems to me that it invariably chooses to ignore the opinions of the people that buy its products and push the message that our treacherous civil service wishes to convey.

Sometimes it is so blatant that I am wondering whether it is some sort of experiment in extreme irony?

Perhaps, in the same way that the city of Liverpool has refused to read the Sun since it abused its people killed at Sheffield, the rest of us should stop buying these rags, let's save a tree for Brexit!

Woger Wobbins!

jack ketch said...

I thought after Erdogan got his knickers in such a twist about *that* song by a German comedian, Germany had decided to scrap the ' Lèse-majesté ' laws ?

jack ketch said...

PS. Just checked, the German law was formerly repealed on the 1st of January this year.

Raedwald said...

Jack - thanks, you're right. However, I'm keeping Germany in the 'most repressive nation' category for maintaining on the statute-book Art 188 of the criminal code, under which 'defaming a person involved in popular political life' will get you 3 months to 5 years inside - which stops German papers reporting public corruption in advance of criminal convictions

And Art 189 to boot - which imposes two years prison for defaming a dead person.

Germany is quite definitely NOT a liberal nation.

Edward Spalton said...

This sort of licensed abuse is a pretty harmless safety valve. It did not affect M. Delors in the least and deflected attention from his highly placed British collaborators who were free to advance his project.

However, there is not much doubt about the EU's mindset and ambitions in this sort of thing.

" Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and can be restricted WITHOUT AFFECTING FREEDOM OF SPEECH" ( my capitals)
Ruiz Jarab Colomer, Advocate General of the EU Court of Justice 19 October 2000 Case c-274/99.

Raedwald said...

Edward - you win the crown for that quote - amazing!

I give you fair notice that I'm going to steal it and use it often ;)

jack ketch said...

which stops German papers reporting public corruption in advance of criminal convictions

Does it? I think the former Burgomaster of Regensburg would be surprised to hear that...and countless others. Yes the laws could prevent reporting of such things but they tend to be used only for their original purpose which was to prevent the use of one of the Nazi's infamous tatics of using the press to baselessly smear opponents. Unlike the oh-so-liberal yUK where papers can pretty much print what they like about someone IF they are prepared to pay damages IF that person can afford to take them to court, German papers have to at least have some evidence. Is that illiberal? Maybe but I would plead a 'special case' for Germany in this regard. After the war the Fathers of the German Constitution(s) and legal system were genuinely concerned that 'it' should never happened again...hence the verbot on swastika tattoos etc.

As to the maligning of the dead, two words: Jimmy Savile.

DeeDee99 said...

The more there is to criticise (and lampoon) the more restrictive they'll become.

jack ketch said...

Criticism of the EU is akin to blasphemy and can be restricted

As a former translator I can see 3 words in that sentence that set off my mental alarm bells. I don't speak a word of Spanish beyond 'uno watneys red barrelo garcon por favor' but I will wager that that sentence does not quite mean what most Brits would think it does.

Granted it is still pretty bad, even if I'm right about how it is to be understood but it isn't quite as frothy mouthed fanatical as it appears.

Edward Spalton said...

Jack Ketch,

Thank you for the words of caution. I must also advise a spelling mistake. The Advocate General's second name has an o at the end. It is Jarabo .

I used to do German/English translation for that excellent website and often struggled to hit things right and not alter the original tone. It is not an exact science.

At one point I tried one of the translating programs (then in an early stage). It came up with a very curious phrase "The never flax sinking day" . The original was "Sankt Nimmerleinstag"
more or less "St. Never's Day" . i.e a day which will never come.

Peter MacFarlane said...

You'll find out all about Britain's incredibly lax press rules if you publish a cartoon about Mahomet. Or even think about doing so.

jack ketch said...

Britain's incredibly lax press rules Peter Mcfarlane

You are right of course but in the yUK publishing a cartoon of the PaedoProfit is not an act of criminal defamation but rather a 'hate' crime....perhaps and no doubt a breach of any newspaper's liability insurance...

jack ketch said...

not alter the original tone. It is not an exact science. Ed Spalton

Indeed, a classic example being that fairly recent supposed comment from Juncker about "Brexit can not be a success". Hands up all those who read that as 'Ve kann not allow ze Brexit to be ein Success'?

ray said...

A while ago but relevant:

ray said...

and more detail in a piece by Ambrose in the Speccie (18 Nov 2000). Brief mention of the faulty translation defence:

jack ketch said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cascadian said...

The Guardian article tells less than half the story (surprise, surprise).

Here is a much better expose:

The EU-approved candidates keep getting beaten by populists (Austria, Hungary, Poland, Germany, Italy, Greece, Spain etc) espousing amongst other things the idea that European society was not built-and-paid-for to be plundered by ungrateful gimmegrants. Such obvious truths do not fit EU thinking and must be expunged.