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La liberté d’expression et de religion dans les médias

Both a general and a more specific analysis of current debates on religion and media in Denmark begins with freedom of speech. As the right to put into print, writing and speech ones opinion without the fear of censorship, freedom of speech is guaranteed in the Danish Constitution of 1849 and in all subsequent revisions. Thus the latest from 1953, states in §77, that “… any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.”

Thus, it is the responsibility of government under the responsibility of parliament, both to make sure that there is a freedom of speech, while at the same time both prosecuting defamation and protecting the public order.A press council has been set up as an independent supervising institution that deals with complaints of any kind over media in all forms. This is done by the Danish Media Liability Act. It managed in collaboration with representatives from media and parliament the guidelines for sound press ethics and code of conduct. These guidelines, the press council and – in extreme cases – the police, are making sure that both the freedom of speech is maintained while no other freedoms are violated, among these, the freedom to privacy and freedom to belief and worship according to one’s convictions.

Religion has in a sense always been part of public life and thus also part of the media. The traditional and well established newspapers would report on events relating to the Church and from time to time a sermon or a theological debate would be present. However, religion did not generally play a significant role. When it did, this would be on matters concerning the majority Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Church. In 1896, however, the Christian Daily was established after disputes between inner-mission Christians and more liberal wings of the church concerning exaggerations and allegations about their differences and mutual positions. There was a need for a newspaper that took ecclesiastical life seriously. The paper is still in print and has made a niche for itself on matter of faith, ethics and existence.

In radio and television, religion entered through a commitment to public service. In Denmark, because the state was the first to offer radio broadcasts with the Danish Radio, government – that is the ministry for cultural affairs – was committed by law to make sure that a certain standard of public service was met. When television was introduced, the same requirement of public service was put into force. With Danish Radio having a monopoly on broadcasting in both radio and television until 1988, the commitment to public service meant that both radio and television had to provide programming to suit the broader public. Thus, there were narrow programs with a small audience and large, often entertainment shows that addressed itself to the general public in prime time. As part of this, religion was given a legally and publicly financed voice from time to time.

Most substantially are the Sunday morning services of one of the parishes of the Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Church, which are aired both on radio and television since the very early days of radio. This caters to the 85% of the audience that are members of the Danish Evangelical-Lutheran Church. In addition to this, from time to time programs address issues in relation to minority religion. However, no voice is given on a regular basis to other religions or religious communities.

D 13 septembre 2012    ANiels Valdemar Vinding

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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