Days before the religiously-motivated attacks on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, former Danish President Anders Fogh Rasmussen sat down with Big Thing to reflect on his own struggles dealing with civil unrest sparked by controversial cartoons. In 2005 protests swept through the country after Jyllands-Posten, a Danish newspaper, published a number of cartoons that depicted the prophet Mohammed. Despite calls for the Danish government to step in and mitigate tensions within the country, Rasmussen and his cabinet elected not to become directly involved.
Though Rasmussen describes that time as “Denmark's worst international relations incident since the Second World War,” he still stands by his decision not to bend to the public’s will. In remaining uninvolved, he said, he was defending the Danish press’s right to free speech.
Similar sentiment has echoed through the French press as Charlie Hebdo prepares to release its largest print run in the publication’s history. Soon after the shooting, an outpouring of financial support to the newspaper came from across the globe, enabling the surviving editorial staff to publish some 1 million copies of this week’s forthcoming issue. Since announcing its intentions, Charlie Hebdo has upped its projected publication numbers to 3 million copies to be printed in 16 languages, including Arabic, and distributed throughout 18 countries.
"There is a future. But we don't know yet what it will resemble. There will be a newspaper," said Hebdo’s sitting editor-in-chief Gerard Briard. "For the time being we can't tell you anymore because we don't know ourselves."
Listen to former Danish President Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s reflections on dealing defending the press AFTER THE JUMP...