“The Adventures of Tintin in the Land of the Law”

A very interesting analysis by Dr. Jogchum Vrielink (Institute for Constitutional Law at Leuven University in Belgium) of a recent Belgian court decision (though note that I haven’t read the decision myself):

“Tintin,” the brainchild of the late Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi (better known as Hergé) is experiencing new and exciting adventures these days. Not just in the cinema, but in Belgian courts as well. A Brussels court has rejected the suit of a Congolese student and a minority organization to obtain a ban on the comic book ‘Tintin in the Congo.’ The main conclusions about the case: One, despite this outcome, the reasoning of the court jeopardizes free speech. And two, as regards the applicants: offensive as the comic may be, their recourse to the law is both misdirected and counterproductive.

The basic outline: Bienvenu Mbuto Mondondo, a Congolese national studying in Brussels, filed suit to obtain an injunction against the continued publication, distribution and sale of the comic book ‘Tintin in the Congo’ (Tintin au Congo), as well as seeking to have the book withdrawn from bookshops and libraries in Belgium. Mondondo did so on the basis of alleged violations of the Belgian anti-racism legislation. In subsidiary order he demanded that a disclaimer be printed on the comic’s cover, warning of its offensive nature, along with the inclusion of an introduction of a similar nature. Mondondo was supported in his claims by an organization representing minorities, Conseil représentatif des associations noires (also known by its acronym, Cran).

On 10 February 2012, the Brussels Court of First Instance rejected all the applicants’ claims….