Saturday, 27 February 2010

Politiken’s Mohammed cartoons settlement

Danish national daily newspaper Politiken “has reached a settlement with the descendants of the Prophet Mohammed, apologising for the offence the Mohammed cartoons have caused.” The settlement was negotiated with Saudi Arabian lawyer Faisal Yamani, representing eight Muslim organisations. Here is Politiken’s version of the story in English and in Danish, and the Associated Press account.

Danish politicians from across the spectrum have criticised Politiken’s action. Defenders of the paper argue that it has made no concession on the right to publish, and that previous expressions of regret for hurt feelings had been issued by Jyllands Posten, the paper that first published the cartoons, and by former Danish prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen. The current PM focuses his concern on the point that Politiken acted in response to a threat of legal action, and that it had broken ranks with other Danish papers in its response.

Politiken’s move is opposed by all other Danish dailies, according to Ebbe Dal of Danske Dagblades Forening, the Danish daily newspapers’ organisation. Since autumn of last year, a number of daily papers have been in communication with the lawyer Faisal Yamani. According to DDF, he has threatened legal action should the papers fail to apologise for publishing the Mohammed cartoons.  DDF is supporting those newspapers that don’t wish to make a settlement.

Journalisten.dk reports that there is also disquiet amongst a number of Politiken journalists. Following an internal meeting,  Politiken’s editor Tøger Seidenfaden said “The debate was actually not much different than in wider society. Some think it’s brilliant, and some think it’s less than brilliant.”

See also Francis Sedgemore, who writes an obituary for Politiken.

Earlier posts on this topic here, and here, and so on.

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A few Danish commenters on the above have recalled what was perhaps the darkest hour in Politiken’s history, a leader article published by the paper on 28 April 1940, 19 days after Denmark’s surrender to Nazi invasion. The article blamed the invasions of Norway and Denmark on British government policy, and concluded that “Churchill is a dangerous man.” In the two months following publication, the paper lost 15,000 subscribers, around 10% of its total circulation.

The paper was at that time politically aligned with the party Det Radikale Venstre, and the chairman of Politiken’s board of directors, Erik Scavenius, became foreign minister and later PM of the wartime government. Despite the anti-Nazi stance of both party and paper, Scavenius was a leading advocate of a realist policy of collaboration with the Nazis in order to preserve Danish national interests while under occupation. This policy received popular support in the early years of occupation, but eventually became politically unsustainable and ended in 1943, at which point the Nazis imposed direct rule.

Politiken’s affiliation with Det Radikale Venstre ended in 1970 under the editorship of Herbert Pundik.

Coincidentally Herbert Pundik was in the news himself this week, as he revealed in an interview with Information, another Danish daily, that in the period prior to his editorship he submitted intelligence reports to both Mossad and Forsvarets Efterretningstjeneste, (Danish military intelligence,) while travelling as a reporter for Danmarks Radio, Politiken and another Danish daily, Information.

Historian Ole Lange maintains that Information’s then-editor Børge Outze was fully aware that Pundik worked for Mossad. Information was founded during the occupation by members of the Resistance as an underground news service.

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