This Week’s Editorial: King Canute over again

Nearly 1,000 years ago, the mighty King Cnut the Great ruling over Denmark and England felt so powerful that he wanted to prove that he also commanded the waves. He sat by the shore and ordered the waves not to wet his feet, and he had to ask for dry socks for his arrogance.

Some Danish institutions seem to have forgotten that lesson.

Farcical situation
Some ten years back, a former special forces soldier wrote a book about soldiering in Afghanistan. The generals felt offended and petitioned the court for an injunction against the publication and distribution of the contents of the book, even though the book was already distributed and in the hands of review journalists.

It was a farce and eventually cost the chief of defence and the respective minister their positions for their clumsiness in handling the forces of nature.

Nothing learned
Now again it seems that nothing was learned. The former chief of the PET intelligence agency, Jakob Scharf, gave a series of interviews to a journalist about his seven years as head of PET.

As funding demands and the numbers employed at PET soared, Scharf was eventually fired from his position. His disappointment was a matter of record, and this no doubt coloured his version of events, along with his opinion of the security mobilisation he was responsible for.

Willfully disregarded
Still, PET went ballistic and obtained an injunction preventing certain media from disclosing the contents of the book. By this time, it had already been distributed to booksellers and reviewers, and the tabloid Ekstra Bladet had already gone to print quoting extensive parts of the book.

Politiken, which has a later deadline, managed to print the whole book as a supplement to its Sunday newspaper. They willfully disregarded the injunction so now everybody can read it and form their own opinion on the matter.

Wet feet
What the consequences will be remains to be seen. Politiken may face charges relating to its formal disobedience in printing in defiance of a court order, but we hope it will be leniently treated as the real culprit is PET and its arrogance in trying to stem a flood that was already washing over its feet.

PET has been given so many resources recently that the press have every right to critically monitor the organisation. The injunction farce shows only too clearly that it has already become a monster that deserves wet feet.