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Belgium Keeps Tintin in the Congo on the Shelves


Every once in a while, European courts get something right, and rule reasonably on a question of free speech, rather than radically overreaching in the name of tolerance. A Belgian court did so recently, declaring that Hergé’s Tintin in the Congo, one of his marvelous series of Tintin comic books, should not in fact be banned. The book has been criticized for decades for its caricatured portrayal of Congolese natives, which were of course unexceptional when the work was completed in the 1930s. The Guardian reports:

Documents from the court of first instance in Brussels show that it did not believe the 1946 edition of Tintin in the Congo was intended to incite racial hatred, a criteria when deciding if something breaks Belgium’s racism laws. The decision was issued late on Friday.

In 2007, Congolese campaigner Bienvenu Mbutu Mondondo launched legal proceedings to ban the book, arguing its portrayal of Africans was racist. “It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to … create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment,” the court said in its judgment. Mbutu’s lawyer said he planned to appeal. “Mr Mbutu will take this case as far as he can,” lawyer Ahmed L’Hedim said.