Thursday, January 31, 2008

The story is over .... maybe

Only EUObserver has bothered to report the fact that after several years of unpleasantness the Belgian police have dropped their case against the Stern journalist Hans Martin Tillack.

We have followed the story since 2004 and here is the link to all of the postings, so our readers, should they wish to, can read them in order.

The end of the whole sorry tale is summed up here:
The Belgian police have said they will return almost a thousand pages of documents to a former Brussels journalist, ending a years-long saga that was judged a violation of freedom of expression by the European Court of Human Rights.

On Wednesday (30 January), Belgian police commissioner Philippe Charlier informed the Brussels office of German news magazine Stern that the documents confiscated in 2004 will be returned.
Well, that’s nice. On top of that the Belgian authorities have agreed to abide by the instructions of the European Court of Human Rights and pay “€10,000 for "moral damages" as well as €30,000 in costs”. Mr Tillack said that he would donate the €10,000 to the relief fund of the International Federation of Journalists who had supported him in his travails.

This is a somewhat unusual event in that the IFJ actually helped someone to win. Normally, they just wring their hands about press freedom suddenly disappearing because of war on terror. As we have pointed out before, the IFJ seems to live in a world of its own in which they could actually make this comment in 2005:
…the war on terrorism amounts to a devastating challenge to the global culture
of human rights and civil liberties established almost 60 years ago…/span>
At the time, we wrote this and see no reason for changing a single word:
Excuse me? Global culture of human rights and civil liberties that has existed for almost 60 years?

Those 60 years saw, among other developments, Stalin’s second purge, the Communist purges in Eastern Europe, the murder of many millions of Chinese under Mao’s regime (and if there is a culture of human rights and civil liberties in China, I must have missed it), the rule of Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, not to mentionKim Il-Sung and Kim Jong-Il in North Korea.

Those 60 years saw the devastation of one African state after another to the point where human rights and civil liberties are not words most of the unfortunate people of that Continent can even begin to understand.

Those 60 years saw the rule of the two Assads and of Saddam Hussein, not to mention other tyrants in the Middle East and the Gulf region.

Shall I go on? Well, yes, the last couple of years saw a rapid movement back into autocracy in Russia, temporarily, we hope, in Ukraine, more permanently in Belarus, Moldova, Kazakhstan and all the other stans.

It seems the murder of Gongadze in Ukraine and the near murder of Anna Politkovskaya in Russia (to pluck two cases at random – there are many more) are not a challenge, devastating or otherwise to human rights or civil liberties, as established nearly 60 years ago.
None of that matters except for the war on terror even though Anna Politkovskaya has, in fact, been murdered, as have several other Russian journalists. Considering that the IFJ has spent all this time simply helping Mr Tillack’s get his papers back (and he has not yet been given them, merely promised), the Federation’s ability to aid and defend its own is limited.

Its notion of how to tell the world about the Russian government’s treatment of the media is to hold a conference in Moscow. Apparently the organizers are indifferent to the sort of impression that might create in the remote possibility of anybody apart from World Politics Review noticing it.

Apart from all that, one wishes Hans Martin Tillack well. One would, however, like to know what his opinion about the European Union is now. At the beginning of this whole mess, as I recall, he was a europhiliac and was rather shocked that he, a supporter of the project who wished to see it reform itself in order to appear more attractive to the people of Europe, should have been treated in such a dastardly fashion. Has he progressed from that position at all?

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