Denmark, Democracy and the Free Press

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Ask some Danes in the street of Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, about what is important to them. Many will answer you that it is important that we have a country that is safe, that all people get their basic supply of food, have a decent place to live and have free access to the hospital and to education. Many will formulate that it is important to them as Danes that we have a well-functioning democracy without corruption.

If you talk more with people they would possibly argue, that they appreciate a free press. Everybody should be allowed to speak up and give their opinion on all kinds of issues in the community, including on religion. In fact in most cases religion isn’t a big issue for modern Danes and in Denmark people have a right to practice their own religion.

As a very small country Danes are aware that we are just a small sand corn in the global sea of sand. But due to the focus on democracy and how to improve equality globally Denmark has for many years been keen on developmental aid. The later years this has ceased a little but still it is a fundamental thing among Danes to try to make the world a little bit better.

As an example I can mention that I was assigned to be a part of an effort of the Ministry of Thailand to ‘Strengthening Environmental Education in Thailand’ (The SEET Project). This 4 years work was initiated by the host country, Thailand, and partly funded by 0.80 USD from each of the 5 million inhabitants in Denmark through the tax system. Formally the project was funded under the agency DANCED, later under DANIDA, and the project had very strong democratic aspects build in.

For Danes it is difficult to separate the importance of democracy from the long term caring for the environment in Denmark and world wide. Back in the late 1960s the environmental movement in Denmark would never have had that important impact without the free press in Denmark. All Danish newspapers are independent of the government and most are more or less independent of political parties, too. But of cause they have their different basic attitudes that for each newspaper will be closer to some political parties than to others.

The environmental movement in Denmark was for years in strong opposition to the government and to the establishment of business. But with the critical attitude to community issues we love the newspapers for keeping the public debate going. In the case of environmental matters it sparked a strong environmental priority among some political parties and in the government as such at that time. Effects of that are still highly viable: Denmark is regarded as the ‘windmill hub’ of the world, and we escaped from having nuclear power plans in our small country.

That would never have happened without democracy and a free press in Denmark.

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