Denmark pledges to protect teachers from threats against free speech

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By Euronews  with AFP
Danish Justice minister Nick Haekkerup speaks at a press conference in Copenhagen.
Danish Justice minister Nick Haekkerup speaks at a press conference in Copenhagen.   -  Copyright  IDA GULDBAEK ARENTSEN / RITZAU SCANPIX / AFP, FILE

Denmark says it will take measures to protect teachers' freedom of expression and prevent the risks of "self-censorship".

The Danish government has stated that teachers should be able to speak about certain subjects, including cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, the Holocaust, women's rights, and LGBT+ issues.

The ruling Socialist party said it would begin discussions in parliament on "freedom of expression" in January.

"It is unacceptable for violence and threats to create self-censorship and censorship in schools," said Danish Justice Minister Nick Hækkerup.

"All teachers must feel free and safe in their teaching, and Parliament has an obligation to ensure this," he added.

Last week, Denmark's opposition had a majority support its proposal for school teaching on cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

The cartoons -- which were first published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 -- triggered an unprecedented wave of anti-Danish sentiments in several Muslim countries. Islam strictly forbids any depiction of Mohammed.

The cartoons were also connected to the 2015 terror attack on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo in Paris, which killed 12 people.

Last year, French history teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded after showing cartoons of Mohammed during a lesson on freedom of expression.

Denmark has said that many teachers in the country fear "violence or threats of violence" related to their work.

"Teaching in primary schools must, of course, include teaching about democracy and freedoms, and the Muhammad crisis -- as a major event in Danish history -- is a natural part of that teaching," the justice ministry said in a statement.

"We must not and will not accept teachers being met with threats when they do their work."