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In a move that seems like it would come from an authoritarian regime, not a fully developed democracy, a Swiss court has forbidden the publication of a book of cartoons critical of Sepp Blatter, president of the international football (soccer) association FIFA — and it has threatened to fine the cartoonist, former football player Olé Andersen, up to 10,000 Swiss francs if it’s published anywhere in the world.
As first reported by Andrew Jennings, Blatter not only went to court to stop publication of the book — it’s actually about a fictional character named “Platter” who’s exactly like him — his lawyers asked for an immediate ban on the grounds that Blatter “has a good reputation and if the cartoons were published he would never be able to repair the damage.” Others would dispute this claim.
Of course, this is blowing up in Blatter’s face: He’s being roundly mocked in the Swiss papers, and Jennings called him a “censorious chump” in The Guardian. It would be funny if it weren’t for the chilling fact that apparently a court in a supposedly democratic country thinks it’s OK to apply prior restraint on a book, not only in that country but worldwide.
It’s worth noting that Blatter made FIFA a co-complainant in this suit, which means the organization is paying his bills.
And it’s also worth noting that Blatter tried to ban a previous book — an expose of FIFA by Jennings — in 2006, but he and his lawyers dropped the case quickly when the publisher, HarperCollins, stepped up and announced it would challenge the ruling. Hopefully the Danish publisher of Anderson’s book will show similar resolve.
(Cartoon from the German newspaper Blick.)