How should the media handle the Dutch anti-Koran film?
Geert Wilders doesn’t do things by halves. The anti-Koran film that this far-right politician has been working on in recent months will be finished very soon. He doesn’t know if any Dutch broadcaster will touch it because of the controversy it has already stirred up. So he has arranged to have “Fitna” put out as a webcast as well. That should ensure that the film can be seen all around the world and not just in the Netherlands.
“It is very good news,” Wilders told us , adding that the film would “definitely be finished this week.” After that, he has to negotiate with Dutch television programmes to see who — if any — will broadcast it. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende appealed last month for restraint over the film and Iran has urged the Netherlands to prevent this “provocative and satanic act on the basis of European Convention on Human Rights.”
The Dutch foreign and justice ministers met Wilders on Wednesday to warn him of the possible consequences of showing his film, including possible charges against him for hate speech. According to the Volkskrant daily and NOS television, Wilders called the meeting “one hour of pure intimidation” and left it determined to work “full speed ahead” on his project.
Nobody has yet seen a 15-minute film about the Koran, which Wilders calls a fascist book, but it has already led to anti-Dutch protests and outraged Muslims worldwide. Clips purporting to be his film have appeared on YouTube, prompting a blockage in access to the popular site in Pakistan that temporarily closed it down worldwide.
A network of Muslim communities in the Netherlands is planning to hold an “open mosque day” around the country when the film is screened to appeal for calm and dialogue. Politicians and celebrities have taken out full-page newspaper adverts to pledge their commitment to tolerance and social harmony.
A survey by TNS Nipo institute last December found two-thirds of those polled thought the film was a bad idea and three-quarters believed the film could sour relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Some people say the media should ignore politicians like Wilders and not give him a platform to spread his views. But he can use the Internet to broadcast his film directly to anyone who clicks on the site. What do you think is the best way for the media to deal with a story like this?