Opinion: Poor girl

POSTED: 07/21/15 7:19 PM


Marriage is the chief cause of divorce. And: I never forget a face but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception. These are two examples of sarcastic satire, and both statements are almost as old as the road to Rome – Groucho Marx made them.

Satire is an art and not everybody masters it. The best current day examples are Jon Stewart, John Oliver and Trevor Noah. Note that Judith Roumou is not part of this line up.

There is a difference between satire and blunt insults and blatant lies, but not everybody seems to understand this. In a community where too many people love to ingest gossip as the Hole Grail it is not surprising that there are still supporters left for that poor girl who was arrested for extortion, stalking, libel and defamation.

Even seriously misguided politicians in the Netherlands like Ronald van Raak and, close on his heels, André Bosman have jumped on this doomed bandwagon.

The poor girl who does not understand the difference between insult and attire has suddenly and, probably on the advice of her very smart attorney Zylena Bary – she would not get such an idea on her own if you gave her a million bucks for it – labeled herself as a ‘political satirist’. Under that moniker, she continues to spread lies and insinuations that will come to haunt her one of these days.

A political satirist who does not understand the first thing about the law and about how far you can go with insult wrapped in the false flag of satire will obviously learn a not-so-welcome lesson when these actions are put in from of the independent judge.

Mind you, right now, the poor girl is a suspect, and we respect the concept of presumption of innocence. As long as the court has not spoken, said poor girl is a suspect, which is something entirely different from someone whose right to freedom of expression is being trampled on.

In St. Maarten, we are fortunate that we are able to express our opinions freely. There is nothing wrong with the freedom of the press on our island and in that respect, we ought to count our blessings.

But freedom of expression is also subject to the rule of law and if you break those rules often enough you’re gonna be in trouble.

Now one could argue that the law is wrong and that we have to go with Salman Rushdie’s position that the right to freedom of expression is absolute. We’d say: go ahead, it is a respectable idea – though we do not agree with it – and if you want this to be so than take initiatives to change the law.

Talk to politicians. Write letters to the editor. Start an online petition. Do whatever it takes. Mobilize like-minded citizens.

We are pretty sure that, from a legal point of view, a law that declares freedom of expression an absolute right – that is to say, without any restrictions – will never see the light of day in our community.

Writing such legislation would open the door to slander on a scale never experienced before. And the question is: do we want to live in a society like that?

For us at Today, the answer is no.

And why is that? Because we are afraid of our critics?

Absolutely not.

Anybody with a bone to grind is welcome to send letters to the editor. We will publish them, as long as they do not incite hatred, racism or violence, and as long as they do not contain personal attacks on individuals with proof.

That is the difference with the poor blogger who is finally facing the inevitable reality check. We know countries where she would never make it to a court room but we feel fortunate that St. Maarten is not one of them.

We feel sorry for the people who believe her lies, but there are no laws against stupidity – nor should there be. We’re looking forward to the poor girl’s day in court where legal minds will sort out this mess.

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