The Corner

Message for the Belgian Government

A number of us here in the United States have witnessed, with growing concern, reports of the government of Belgium’s harassment of the weblog, “The Brussels Journal.”  We consider The Brussels Journal to be an invaluable source of information and opinion on matters European. By no means are all of us necessarily in agreement with everything that appears on The Brussels Journal. Nor are all of us by any means traditional Christians. Nonetheless, Americans recognize The Brussels Journal as one of the few web-based sources of European news and opinion from a conservative and Christian point of view, and we consider it essential that all sides of political and cultural questions be permitted a place in public debate.

Many of us are concerned by the reply directed by Minister Counselor, Geert Criel, of Belgium’s American Embassy, to the inquiry filed by Professor Kenneth Anderson, particularly the implied threat that The Brussels Journal may be punished for “expressions of racism.” We are not aware of any such racism at The Brussels Journal. We also believe that the best remedy for any such statements would be public condemnation, rather than “punishment.” Above all, we oppose the closing down of this website and/or the harassment, intimidation, fining, or jailing of its operator, Paul Belien, and/or any of his collaborators.

We are also concerned by provisions for anonymous accusations, such as are available on your Cyberhate website.  We believe in the right of the accused to face his accusers. If someone wants to make the case that The Brussels Journal is a racist website, let him do so publicly. Then let the public judge. We are prepared to publicly condemn expressions of racism. Yet we also wish to decide for ourselves whether to visit The Brussels Journal, and to what degree we should credit what we read there.

The Belgian government needs to understand that a number of people here in the United States are now carefully watching the outcome of this case. Should government harassment of the Brussels Journal continue, should Paul Belien and/or any of his collaborators be punished in any way by the government of Belgium for the public expression of their opinions, and above all, should the Brussels Journal be shut down, the government of Belgium should know that this issue will not simply disappear. On the contrary, it will become a great deal more prominent, and will surely affect the attitudes of the American people toward the government of Belgium and the people of Europe.

Stanley Kurtz is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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