Right to information at stake in Czech Hitler book trial - press


03.06.2014 10:43

Prague - The Brno Municipal Court will have to decide between the right to information and a ban on its release in the case of the publication of a Czech book of speeches of Adolf Hitler, Karel Steigerwald writes in daily Mlada fronta Dnes (MfD) today.


U brněnského městského soudu začal 2. června proces s vydavateli knihy Adolf Hitler: Projevy. Obžalovaní Pavel Kamas (vlevo) a Lukáš Novák (třetí zleva) rozdávali po soudním jednání výtisky zdarma. ČTK Toamdl Jan

The court proceedings with three representatives of the Guidemedia publishing house started on June 2. The editors may go to prison for up to ten years for promotion of Nazism and Holocaust denial and their publishing house may be abolished if the charges filed against them are proved.

Though the Czech legal system is not based on the principle of precedent, the court verdict will strongly influence potential future publishers of extremist and other controversial texts and their possible trials, Steigerwald writes.

He says the Guidemedia case concerns the protection of the right to information, the right to study the past and free access to the past on the one hand, and a ban on the spreading of perverted ideologies that harmed so many people on the other hand.

It is always tricky to punish the spreading of information and it may do more harm than good, Steigerwald writes.

However, the view of that the promotion of information should not be violated and is vital for the healthy development of society is not rooted in the Czech Republic, he says.

The country has little experience with such a liberal concept of freedom. Experience with banning and concealing various opinions, data, events and facts is much greater, Steigerwald adds.

To read or study Hitler´s speeches and not their interpretations is of key importance for the understanding and study of history, he says.

Those who want to be Nazis mostly do not read Hitler´s speeches or they find access to their banned fragments. A ban will encourage their support for Nazism rather than stop it, Steigerwald writes.

Those who want to ban the publishing of Hitler´s speeches should seriously consider their arguments for the view that the publishing will be harmful, he says.

Hitler´s speeches caused a lot of harm: the whole Nazi madness was based on them and they enchanted a great part of the German nation. Precisely for this reason one should get acquainted with these speeches, Steigerwald writes.

It is hard to tolerate the influence of Hitler´s opinions on the public and the wish to ban them can be understood, he says.

If Czech courts start punishing the promotion of information from the Nazi era, they cannot ignore the communist era. Not only those praising Hitler but also those who praise Stalin or his Czech parallel, Klement Gottwald, would be prosecuted and punished as a result, Steigerwald writes.

This would be the worst solution: it would not affect the spreading or limiting of Nazism and communism, but it would influence the freedom of all citizens, Steigerwald concludes.

Guidemedia´s defence lawyer Tomas Pecina told the court on Monday that the publishing of Hitler´s speeches can be considered the promotion of Nazism, but Nazism is a non-existent, dead ideology that was defeated in war in 1945. The issuing of a historical document cannot be considered a crime, Pecina argued.

The most controversial part of the Czech edition of Hitler´s speeches are the editor´s comments on individual speeches.

State attorney Jan Petrasek recalled on Monday that the Guidemedia publisher was tried over the publication of the Czech translation of Mein Kampf by Hitler in the past and that he was acquitted of the charges in 2005.

But Petrasek pointed to the fact that Mein Kampf was issued without any comments, unlike the book of Hitler´s speeches published in 2012.

Petrasek also noted that all three suspects were punished by court in the past before - one for breach of the peace and fraud, one for theft and one for causing bodily harm.

Late last year, Guidemedia published the programme of Hitler's National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP). Miroslav Mares, an expert in extremism, said then he can see no problem in the issuing of the book. The NSDAP programme is available on the Internet anyway, he said.

Guidemedia has published eight books so far, all concerning Nazism and World War Two.

On Monday, the three charged representatives of Guidemedia tried to distribute copies of the Czech book of Hitler´s speeches for free in the courtroom, but the judge did not allow it.

The trial will continue on July 9.

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