Self-Censorship: Free Society vs. Fear Society

by Giulio Meotti
December 2, 2016

In the summer of 2005, the Danish artist Kåre Bluitgen, when he met a journalist from the Ritzaus Bureau news agency, said he was unable to find anyone willing to illustrate his book on Mohammed, the prophet of Islam. Three illustrators he contacted, Bluitgen said, were too scared. A few months later, Bluitgen reported that he had found someone willing to illustrate his book, but only on the condition of anonymity.

Like most Danish newspapers, Jyllands-Posten decided to publish an article about Bluitgen’s case. To test the state of freedom of expression, Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten’s cultural editor at the time, called twelve cartoonists, and offered them $160 each to draw a caricature of Mohammed. What then happened is a well-known, chilling story.

In the wave of Islamist violence against the cartoons, at least two hundred people were killed. Danish products vanished from shelves in Bahrain, Qatar, Yemen, Oman, the UAE and Lebanon. Masked gunmen stormed the offices of the European Union in Gaza and warned Danes and Norwegians to leave within 48 hours. In the Libyan city of Benghazi, protesters set fire to the Italian consulate. Political Islam understood what was being achieved and raised the stakes; the West did not.

An Islamic fatwa also forever changed Flemming Rose’s life. In an Islamic caricature, his head was put on a pike. The Taliban offered a bounty to anyone who would kill him. Rose’s office at the newspaper was repeatedly evacuated for bomb threats. And Rose’s name and face entered ISIS’s blacklist, along with that of the murdered editor of Charlie Hebdo, Stéphane Charbonnier.

Less known is the “white fatwa” that the journalistic class imposed on Rose. This brave Danish journalist reveals it in a recently published book, “De Besatte” (“The Obsessed”). “It is the story of how fear devours souls, friendships and the professional community,” says Rose. The book reveals how his own newspaper forced Rose to surrender.

“The drama and the tragedy is that the only ones to win are the jihadists,” Flemming Rose told the Danish newspaper Weekendavisen.

The CEO of Jyllands-Posten, Jørgen Ejbøl, summoned Rose to his office, and asked, “You have grandchildren, do not you think about them?”

The company that publishes his newspaper, JP/Politikens Hus, said: “It’s not about Rose, but the safety of two thousand employees.”

Jorn Mikkelsen, Rose’s former director, and the newspaper’s business heads, obliged him to sign a nine-point diktat, in which the Danish journalist accepted, among other demands, “not participating in radio and television programs”, “not attending conferences”, “not commenting on religious issues”, “not writing about the Organization of the Islamic Conference” and “not commenting on the cartoons”.

Rose signed this letter of surrender during the harshest time for the newspaper, when, in 2010–2011, there were countless attempts on his life by terrorists, and also attempts on the life of Kurt Westergaard, illustrator of a cartoon (Mohammed with a bomb in his turban) that was burned in public squares across the Arab world. Westergaard was then placed on “indefinite leave” by Jyllands-Posten “for security reasons.”

Read more here: https://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/9459/self-censorship

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