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Denmark: Minorities report highlights “free-speech” law change fears

A new expert report on Denmark, expresses fears over plans to decriminalise insulting speech, amid concern at the “predominantly negative” media coverage of Muslims.

The Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), states that “a proposed amendment to the Criminal Code, which would decriminalise insulting speech and criminalise only statements leading to disturbance of the public order, would inevitably lead to the worsening of the climate of the public debate in Denmark.”

In today’s report, the Council of Europe’s expert body on national minorities welcomes changes to the system of allocation of subsidies to German minority press and increased public awareness of racism and xenophobia.

Experts confirm that Denmark has maintained a “consistent policy” of support the German national minority in South Jutland, the only recognised national minority in the country.

The report notes that “despite some flexibility on part of the authorities in respecting the linguistic rights of other groups, namely the Faroese and the Greenlanders, there have not been any developments in intensifying dialogue with other groups who have expressed interest in benefiting from protection under the convention, such as Roma.

“Roma and some other groups continue to face discrimination and intolerant attitudes, and measures taken to address negative stereotyping of some groups have not yielded expected results.

“Roma are stereotyped as a group engaging in criminal activity; there are also instances of their being denied access to public places as well as allegations of ethnic profiling by the police. Media coverage of issues concerning Muslims is predominantly negative.”

Today’s opinion is based on information submitted by the Danish authorities and visits made by Council of Europe experts to the country in spring 2014.

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