Anti-Semitic and Holocaust-Denying Topics in the Romanian Media

By Florian, Alexandru | Romanian Journal of Political Science, Winter 2009 | Go to article overview

Anti-Semitic and Holocaust-Denying Topics in the Romanian Media


Florian, Alexandru, Romanian Journal of Political Science


Introduction

This paper will be looking at the main anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying topics in the Romanian media during 2007. The axiological premise of this assessment is that in a modern society, freedom of expression is not unlimited. According to J.S. Mill, individual freedom should be used in such a way so as not to damage or limit somebody else's freedom (1994: 17). Thus, in some European countries, especially where the tragedy of the Holocaust and of the Fascist experience were more obtrusive, public manifestations of Holocaust denial were forbidden by law. One of the reasons was that in the period between the two world wars, xenophobic, nationalist and anti-Semitic right-wing radicalism easily succeeded to transform its discriminating message into physical extermination on ethnic and racial grounds. The reaction of civil society, democratic political parties and public opinion leaders against this policy was minor, if at all. Wherever fascist movements or political parties came to power, anti-Semitism became state policy.

In 2002, Romania joined the states that committee themselves to an active policy that discourages the use of Holocaust-denying and pro-fascist symbols. Austria, Germany, France and Spain have specific legal provisions that make Holocaust-denial a crime. In France, the Gayssot Law (July 13, 1990) brings some technical changes to the French criminal legal code, by adding art. 24 bis to the Law of mass-media freedom (1881). This article creates sanctions for those who publicly deny the existence of crimes against humanity, as defined in art. 6 of the Statute of the International Military Tribunal (2). The Austrian law is also a completion of an older legal provision. Art.3 par.h of the The law for banning Nazi or Fascist signs and organizations (1947) states that

[...] whoever denies the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity, or describes them as bluntly inoffensive, approves them or tries to justify them in a written work, on radio or by other means of public communication, or by another means that makes one publicly accessible to many people, will be punished.

Romania, Law 107/2006 reinforced the provisions initially stated by Governmental Order 31/2002, on banning fascist, racist or xenophobic organizations and symbols, as well as the promotion of the memory of persons found guilty of having committed crimes against peace and humanity. The law emerged in the context of a Romanian political scene where political actors and private persons were making efforts to rehabilitate Ion Antonescu using the myth of the hero who saved his country or of the one who symbolically reunited the split parts of his country. Before the Order was issued, from 1990 to 2001, six statues and monuments in Ion Antonescu's memory erected (T. Friling et al. 2005:364). Moreover, in the public area of media communication and culture, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial were and still are present, some of them even having inciting connotations (3). Another aspect is the Internet promotion of webpages that are dedicated to the mythology of the Legionary Movement. Without necessarily being exclusively anti-Semitic, these messages promote nationalism, mysticism, authoritarianism and order, seen as opposing the values of the so called destabilizing democracy (4).

Bearing in mind the Romanian context, this work is structured on two main directions of assessment and interpretation. First it will try to identify the main subject matters and media expressions of support for spreading anti-Semitic or Holocaust-denying messages. Second, it will look at the dynamics of the anti-Semitic and Holocaust-denying discourse in the Romanian media from 2000 to 2007.

Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism: two subject-matters of the public message

Apart from the content of a particular message, we find there are at least two other factors which influence public opinion. …

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