De Jong denounces EP President Martin Schulz’s call for self-censorship

20 September 2012

De Jong denounces EP President Martin Schulz’s call for self-censorship

SP Euro-MP Dennis de Jong took advantage of a meeting of a working group on media freedom established by Dutch European Commissioner Neelie Kroes to urge far-reaching measures to protect freedom of expression. ‘Freedom to express one’s opinion is a great good,’ said De Jong. ‘Religious groups as much as columnists and filmmakers, for example, have an interest in this, even if in the discussion of the anti-Islam film it may look now as if these groups are at odds. Democracy is not for the fearful.’

Dennis de JongDe Jong was reacting to the hue-and-cry provoked by statements made by European Parliament President Martin Schulz to a delegation from the Arab countries. ‘Schulz wasn’t speaking for me,’ he says. ‘As president you can have an opinion about a film and you can call for respectful conduct between different groups within society. It is, however, not the place of the authorities to issue a judgement as to whether a film should or should not have been made and distributed. The courts may look into whether there is any question of incitement to hatred or to violence, but the state and also the European Parliament should not be interfering in this.’

De Jong has asked Commissioner Kroes’s working group to look in particular into whether there is, in their view, growing self-censorship in the media. ‘Whether it is religious groups who feel offended, or commercial interests who try to prevent certain things being expressed in the media, it is becoming increasingly difficult for journalists and filmmakers to express themselves freely,’ says De Jong. ‘I expect the Kroes working group to address this and to make it clear that freedom of expression does not permit people to be intimidated because of things they have said or otherwise expressed in the media. Schulz is creating a suspicion that he finds growing self-censorship a cause for celebration. That’s not good, and we will need to return to this matter in the European Parliament.’

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