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Danish PM uses "powers of discretion" to blacklist prize-winning journalist
anti-war / imperialism |
Sunday May 14, 2006 04:02 by Coilín Oscar ÓhAiseadha aat2004 at mail dot dk Máigh Nuad, Co. Cill Dara
Journalist Bo Elkjær persists in complaints to Ombudsman
In a letter to the Ombudsman of the Danish Parliament, staff at the Danish Prime Minister's Office have invoked "very wide powers of discretion" under the legislation, to defend Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen's persistent refusal to be interviewed by prize-winning journalist Bo Elkjær.
In response, Elkjær points out that Fogh promised to give him an interview when they met at the offices of the Danish Union of Journalists in Copenhagen in January 2004. On that occasion, Elkjær had just been awarded the prestigious Cavling Prize for his work in exposing the lies by which Fogh and his cabinet persuaded the parliament to support Denmark's invasion of Iraq.
By Elkjær's account, staff at the Prime Minister's Office have made the excuse that Mr Fogh "did not have space in his calendar," even though Elkjær has given the Prime Minister's Office complete freedom to set the time and place for an interview. Fogh's staff have repeatedly failed to keep promises that they "would call back".
One of Elkjær's intentions for an interview is to ask why, at a press conference on 21 March 2003, Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen "emphasised a nuclear threat [from Iraq] that the government several days before, in an internal paper, had clearly and unequivocally rejected."
"It is clear from the records of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the government had several days previously arrived at the definitive conclusion that Iraq did not have a nuclear weapons programme, or indeed any nuclear programme at all," says Elkjær.
Please read Billy O'Shea's translation of the latest exchange below.
Subject: ... Letter from the Ombudsman re complaint about blacklisting by the Prime Minister's Office
Date: Sun, 16 Apr 2006
Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil and Military Administration in Denmark
[Ombudsman of the Danish Parliament]
Gammeltorv 22, 1457 Copenhagen K
Tel +45 33 13 25 12. Fax +45 33 13 07 17
Date 7 Apr. 2006
DK-8000 Aarhus C
Regarding your complaint concerning the rejection by the Prime Minister's Office of your request for an interview on the war in Iraq
I enclose a copy of a letter of 4 April 2006 from the Prime Minister's Office.
If you should have any comments on this statement, please send them to me within four weeks.
If I do not hear from you, I will seek to handle the matter on the basis of the available data.
on behalf of the Ombudsman
Henrik Vædele Elmquist
Seven appendices brought by courier
Prime Minister's Office
Prins Jørgens Gård 11, DK-1218 Copenhagen K
Tel. +45 33 92 33 00 – Fax +45 33 11 16 65
Date: 4 APR. 2006
Case handler: CHK/Legal Affairs
Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil and Military Administration in Denmark
Gammel Torv 22
DK-1457 Copenhagen K
In a letter of 13 February 2006 - j.no. 2006-446-998/HVE - the Ombudsman directed a request to the Prime Minister's Office for a statement in connection with a complaint from Ekstra Bladet/Bo Elkjær of 5 February 2006 regarding the reply of the Prime Minister's Office to Bo Elkjær's complaint to the Ombudsman of 28 November 2005 regarding inquiries from Bo Elkjær for an interview with the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister's Office was moreover requested to: "comment on Bo Elkjær's remark that the Prime Minister has repeatedly participated in interviews on the war in Iraq in other media, but that the Prime Minister's Office, according to Bo Elkjær, had "blacklisted" Ekstra Bladet."
In this respect, the Prime Minister's Office wishes to state the following:
1. The Prime Minister's Office remarks to begin with that the Office continually receives a large number of enquiries, both verbal and written, for interviews with the Prime Minister, including requests for interviews on the war in Iraq. The Prime Minister's Office assesses these requests on an ongoing basis, including the enquiries from Bo Elkjær and the specific question which Elkjær in this connection forwarded to the Prime Minister regarding the war in Iraq. It is not possible to accommodate all the enquiries for interviews received by the Prime Minister's Office.
2. The Prime Minister's Office remarks that in accordance with white paper no. 1443 on the guidance and assistance provided by civil servants to the government and its ministers, it must be assumed that the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister's Office possess very wide powers of discretion concerning the interviews in which they desire to participate. It is thus the view of the Prime Minister's Office that there is no obligation on the Prime Minister to accommodate Bo Elkjær's request for an interview.
3. The Prime Minister's Office cannot confirm that the Prime Minister has "repeatedly participated in interviews on the war in Iraq with a wide range of media". The Prime Minister's Office notes that the Prime Minister has given extremely few interviews on the war in Iraq, and that all of these have taken place prior to March 2004.
The Prime Minister's contact with the press, however, is not limited to actual interviews. The Prime Minister answers questions from many media on various occasions - for example in connection with the weekly press conference at the Prime Minister's Office, or at other public events - which are subsequently quoted in the relevant media. Thus, the fact that statements by the Prime Minister have been quoted in connection with the war in Iraq, for example, cannot be taken to mean that the Prime Minister has participated in actual interviews about the war in Iraq.
4. The Prime Minister's Office emphasises that the Office is in no way denying Bo Elkjær information on the war in Iraq. The Prime Minister's Office has received requests under the freedom of information act, relating to the war in Iraq from Bo Elkjær on an ongoing basis. The Prime Minister's Office has answered all of these requests, and has in this connection provided a very large amount of material for Elkjær's use.
The case documentation is enclosed, and the Prime Minister's Office remarks that the Office has enclosed only that part of the material pertaining to the Prime Minister's Office and concerning Bo Elkjær's requests for an interview. In the event that the Ombudsman is also interested in receiving material concerning Bo Elkjær's requests for freedom of information relating to the war in Iraq, including the delivered material, the Prime Minister's Office awaits notification of this.