Thu

Sep

113:33

Debating the right to broadcast hate

 
An anti-immigration programme on Radio24Syv upset many on the Danish left this summer. It was the last straw for one prominent debater, who promised to boycott the station until the show was taken off the air. The radio station execs argued, however, that the debate programme would have aired listeners' concerns – if they had bothered to call in

“I will not participate in [Radio24Syv’s] programmes as long as they maintain a management position that promotes racist and xenophobic programmes, and have so many programmes with lazy journalists at such a poor standard.”

When Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen wrote this comment in a thread on her friend’s wall, she hardly expected it to spark a fierce debate about media and censorship. The activist and author is known for her work with the pro-refugee group Venligboerne (Friendly Residents) and was voted ‘Copenhagener of the Year’ by readers of Politiken newspaper this summer.

Marstrand-Jørgensen and her friend were discussing Radio24Syv’s summer debate programme Je Suis Jalving. Hosted by Michael Jalving, a well-known right-wing historian and commentator, the programme focussed almost entirely on the negative impact of immigration and on the threat that Islam poses to Danish society.

Read more: Closing Denmark to Muslims and refugees

Simon Andersen, Radio24Syv’s news editor, came across Marstrand-Jørgensen’s comment and shared it on his wall. His post was subsequently shared widely, enveloping Marstrand-Jørgensen in a minor shitstorm in which she was accused of intolerance and promoting political censorship.

Among her critics was Radio24Syv’s head of programming, Mads Brügger, who told Berlingske newspaper that “It seems like the left wing regards being right-wing as a mental illness”.

Brügger argued that the radio station’s remit required them to carry debate programmes with strong personal opinions, and pointed out that last summer they hosted left-wing journalist David Trads, who used his programme Tradsalderen to promote multiculturalism.

“I think it’s striking that people who profess their love of tolerance and humanism and benevolence often get enormously angry and aggressive when they are presented with views that counter their own,” Brügger said.

Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen's Facebook post that sparked a furious debate about the role of public service radio. It reads: "Even though there are good people who make radio for Radio24Syv, I will not participate in their programmes as long as they maintain a management position that promotes racist and xenophobic programmes, and have so many programmes with lazy journalists at such a poor standard. Many others have already boycotted them. So the sweet hosts should put pressure on their management...."

Anne Lise Marstrand-Jørgensen’s Facebook post that sparked a furious debate about the role of public service radio. It reads: “Even though there are good people who make radio for Radio24Syv, I will not participate in their programmes as long as they maintain a management position that promotes racist and xenophobic programmes, and have so many programmes with lazy journalists at such a poor standard. Many others have already boycotted them. So the sweet hosts should put pressure on their management….”

Marstrand-Jørgensen was also interviewed in Berlingske, and said she knew individuals that had boycotted the radio station due to its journalistic style. In a separate Facebook update, she recalls her worst experience with the radio station. It was during a debate about the conditions at a new asylum centre, in which she offered documentation that proved it suffered from major health and safety issues. Instead, the radio station rallied behind the immigration minister, Inger Støjberg, who denied Marstrand-Jørgensen’s claims and ignored her evidence.

Beyond this, she believes Je Suis Jalving is problematic because it is presented as a journalistic debate programme.

“In reality, Je Suis Jalving is just a mouthpiece for the most anti-Islamic right wing, which is allowed to make its claims without opposition,” she said.

Read more: Unemployed Danes challenge Danish tolerance

The same allegation was made by listener Steffen Groth, who rang the show to complain about its editorial line. In a follow-up op-ed in Politiken newspaper, Groth argues that Jalving ignored attempts by listeners to share a more positive image of Danish Muslims, instead presenting the minority as unintelligent, inbred, and likely to cause a civil war.

“I accuse you of digging ditches in our society, building up an image of an enemy, and blowing at the embers of xenophobia,” Groth wrote.

In a reply, Mads Brügger and Michael Bertelsen – who share programming responsibility at Radio24Syv – thanked Groth for bothering to call in and share his concerns.

“When we aired Tradsalderen, there was no issue with getting listeners to participate – there was practically a storm of calls from Danish People’s Party supporters. We hoped that on Je Suis Jalving, Mikael Jalving would be called by lots of ‘venligboer’ (pro-refugee activists), but sadly it was difficult to get them to participate. Instead, they preferred to sit at a distance and express their disgust about the programme. One of the exceptions was Steffen Groth, but that was only because a producer spent a lot of energy convincing him to participate in the programme after seeing his allegations against the radio station on Facebook.” M

News, Culture

By Peter Stanners

Co-founder and Editor-in-chief. Occasional photographer.

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