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Hysteria in Denmark, 12 years in prison to share same thoughts as Russians or criticize NATO

OSCE PA Bureau mtg at the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen | Flickr

A new set of laws suggested by the “liberal government” ruling Denmark, is expected to be brought to parliament soon. The set of laws are set to counter influences of foreign intelligence services mainly aimed at Russia and breaking them could get you up to 12 years in jail. The suggested laws would make it illegal to share opinions, news articles or anything that could influence public opinion in any way, if it so happens to coincide with views shared by “foreign intelligence services”, even if it’s related to internal social politics and you weren't aware of it.

The new paragraph 108 would go so far as to make it illegal to share any dissenting opinions on social media in relation to NATO, Crimea, North Stream 2, Russia and in some cases internal danish political topics, if they coincidentally happen to coincide with something that has ever been mentioned on Russian media. If for example Russian media started to criticize Denmark’s social policies, it could land you up to 12 years in jail if you share similar viewpoints expressed by the Russian media. Denmark which was one of the most liberal countries in terms of freedom of speech the recent decades, has taken an extremely authoritarian turn.

What does the law say and who does it target?

The Danish Justice Minister Søren Pape, who is currently being sued by the association Ulovliglogning.dk for his reluctance to stop logging all internet traffic in Denmark, even tho it was deemed illegal by the European Court, has taken the lead in implementing a whole range of surveillance and freedom of speech-limiting laws the last couple of years. It started with the dragnet logging then implementing car license plate scanners across Denmark, removing limitations on public video surveillance and implementing it many places, making it illegal to cover your face in public places(Halloween masks, niqab, burka), implementing facial recognition, giving the police and intelligence services more power and less limitation to now trying to criminalise dissenting opinions and thought crime.

The old paragraph 108 basically states, that anyone that helps foreign intelligence services do their work in Denmark, could be punished by up to 6 years in jail. It was really limited to people who were in some capacity recruited or were in active contact with foreign intelligence services.

The new paragraph 108 will treat any spreading of information, that is deemed to stem from foreign intelligence services as collaborating with them, even if the person sharing the information aren’t aware where it is coming from, and are just doing it by his own free will. I speculate that the authorities probably would use sources like EUvsDisinfo, Atlantic Council and national resources to classify information as propaganda, it could be as little as a news article from RT or Sputnik related to Denmark, because they are to some degree considered extended parts of the Russian intelligence apparatus, in the eyes of many Danes. This would all be done behind the curtain, so people wouldn’t really have a way to know which article might be illegal to share, really sharing any Russian news could get you in trouble.

But it could go much further than that, because paragraph 108 would also make it illegal to influence public opinion with information pertaining to foreign intelligence services, so if RT has an article about rising pension ages in Denmark set by the government, it could be considered trying to influence public opinion with material from foreign intelligence services if you raise the same concerns, and even if you aren’t aware that RT has written about it, but just share similar opinions.

Critics are furious and the most leftist parts of the opposition

This has raised many concerns with danish rights activists, legal experts and even the Institute for Human Rights because it weakens and limits freedom of speech and could itself be seen as a way to sway public opinion and possibly even political censorship which favors the “liberal parties” in rule. One of the staunchest critics of the suggested law has been Jesper Lund who is the Chairman of the IT-political Association of Denmark, he has in many way been an activist against many of the lately implemented surveillance initiatives by the ruling government, has said that “If a foreign state criticizes Denmark for illegally surveilling their citizens or for going to war somewhere, it would then become illegal to voice that critic”. The director of the think thank Justitia Jacob Mchangama “one thing would be if a person is working together with FSB or GRU in an organized manner and opens thousands of twitter accounts to spread pro-Russian news during an election campaign, that should be able to be punished (which it currently is) but this new suggested law could in principle hit all of us”

Another critic is Allon Hein Sørensen from the Alternative Party (Green) who said “Absurd suggestion, that one should go to prison for up to 12 years for being critical over for example NATO, and for writing what I am writing right now. I am tired of ministers who time by time takes a dump on our constitutionally given freedom of speech, and are trying to implement real state-censorship”.

The law is currently in hearing at many institutions, to be formulated properly so it can be voted on in the parliament. I believe that we will see it implemented in some form before the elections in 2019, depending on the larger opposition, which has been largely silent so far, it could be eased up in some parts, or implemented in its full form, but I definitely think that we will see it in some form.

Alexander Awayez

Alexander Awayez is an investigative journalist and researcher of Bulgarian/Iraqi descent who grew up in Denmark and later moved to Bulgaria.