Pages: 1 2
Tying for the #3 spot on RSF’s list is the Netherlands. Yep – the country in which Geert Wilders, a member of Parliament, head of a major political party, and probably the most popular living Dutch politician, has been harassed by the courts for years on account of his views of Islam. In January 2009, he was ordered to stand trial for expressing those views; in June 2011, he was finally acquitted. This outcome was certainly better than a conviction, but for Wilders to be put through more than two years of torment at the hands of his nation’s judiciary is unconscionable. In 2008, the year before Wilders’s tribulations began, the Netherlands was tied at #16 on RSF’s list; in 2009, the year he went to trial, it jumped to #7; in 2010, while Wilders was sweating it out in a courtroom, the Netherlands tied for #1. Atrocious.
The RSF might object that Wilders isn’t a journalist, and that its list is about press freedom. In fact Wilders was tried for statements made in his documentary film Fitna, which could well be viewed as advocacy journalism. But OK, let’s look at the Dutch press. What does it say about the Dutch press that while at least half of his countrymen are in Wilders’s corner, pro-Wilders voices are few and far between in the Dutch newspapers, and Dutch journalists who should have been deeply anguished about the threat to free speech represented by Wilders’s trial denigrated him gleefully throughout his courtroom ordeal? The simple fact is that the Dutch punditocracy effectively bars from its ranks people who’d be likely to support Wilders. Exactly what kind of press freedom is that?
All of which brings us to the #2 spot on the RSF list, and to Norway – where freedom of speech has been under serious threat for years now. In 2006, when a small Christian newspaper, Magazinet, reprinted the Danish Muhammed cartoons, Norwegian government officials at the very highest levels, in concert with the mainstream Norwegian media, exerted intense pressure on Magazinet‘s editor to apologize – which he finally did. (In that year, Norway tied for #6 on RSF’s list.)
In 2011, free speech in Norway took an even bigger hit. In the wake of the July 22 atrocities, committed by a madman who distributed a 1500-page manifesto criticizing Islam and the left, the country’s mainstream media, and a raft of high-profile authors, professors, and politicians, targeted critics of Islam – whom they represented as the murderer’s heroes, and thus, in effect, his accomplices – with a ruthless, full-scale campaign of misrepresentation and demonization. Champions of free speech in Norway have been profoundly alarmed by these developments (which are the subject of my just-published e-book The New Quislings). Yet, inexplicably, the RSF has put Norway at #2 on its list.
It’s hard not to get the impression that Reporters Sans Frontières grades threats to freedom of expression based on what, exactly, the threatened authors and journalists in question have done to give rise to the threats. If cops arrest them for blurring the line between observers of and participants in violent left-wing protests, apparently the RSF sees that as a damning blow to press freedom; if the courts try them, or their fellow journalists attempt to silence them, for criticizing Islam – well, one can only conclude that the RSF, like many others, sees that as a benign effort to protect Muslims’ “right” not to have their religion criticized.
Whatever the case, one thing’s clear: while RSF may well deserve plenty of credit for some of its efforts, the Press Freedom Index is a joke – and, more than that, a slap in the face to all the writers and journalists who have been persecuted in recent years for criticizing Islam. These are precisely the kind of people who should expect the support of an organization like RSF. Instead they don’t even appear to be on its radar.
Freedom Center pamphlets now available on Kindle: Click here.
Pages: 1 2