Flemming Rose: Winner of the 2016 Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty
In 2005, Flemming Rose, an editor at the Danish newspaper Jyllands‐Post, sparked worldwide controversy with a simple request to illustrators: he asked them to draw the prophet Muhammad.
The 12 cartoons that resulted were by turns funny, provocative, insightful, and maybe occasionally in poor taste. The reactions that they provoked, however, vastly outdid anything to be found in the cartoons themselves. Across the Islamic world, riots broke out, typically in front of Danish embassies. Scores of people were killed — none of whom appear to have had any direct connection to the cartoonists or the newspaper. Official international condemnations arrived from Muslim governments; these condemned the cartoons, but not the riots or the killings. A price was put on Rose’s head, and both he and the cartoonists who worked for him received numerous credible death threats, prompting them to go into hiding and secure permanent full‐time bodyguards.
Recognizing the principles that were at stake, Rose refused to apologize or to back down. In the Washington Post he wrote, “I agree that the freedom to publish things doesn’t mean you publish everything. [But] I commissioned the cartoons in response to several incidents of self‐censorship in Europe caused by widening fears and feelings of intimidation in dealing with issues related to Islam. And I still believe that this is a topic that we Europeans must confront.”
Censorship and editorial discretion are different. The latter takes place without threats; the former requires them. And all across the West, threats are now being made against those who propose to criticize Islam, or even simply to depict its prophet visually. Nor are the threats empty, as the 2011 and 2015 attacks on the Parisian satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo demonstrate.
For the past 10 years, censorship perpetrated by violent Islamic extremists has been a flash point in the long struggle for the freedom of the press. Through it all, Flemming Rose has been an exceptionally principled and articulate advocate of the importance of press freedom. In countless interviews, op‐eds, and radio and TV appearances, he has made the case that all ideas deserve a public airing in an atmosphere free from threat and violence. His book,The Tyranny of Silence, chronicles the events of the cartoon controversy and details their chilling implications for the freedom of expression worldwide. It has become a modern classic on the need to stand up for intellectual, press, and artistic freedom.
Established in 2002 and presented every two years, the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty is the leading international award for significant contributions to advancing individual liberty. The Nobel laureate economist Milton Friedman died in November of 2006.
The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty’s Biennial Dinner and award presentation will be held at the Waldorf‐Astoria in New York City, on May 25, 2016.
Flemming Rose was chosen to receive the award through a public, worldwide nomination process.
The members of the 2016 International Selection Committee are:
Gurcharan Das — Former CEO, Procter & Gamble India
Peter Goettler — President, Cato Institute
Karen Horn — Former Economics Editor, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany
Ethelmae Humphreys — Chairman of the Board, TAMKO Building Products, Inc.
Giancarlo Ibárgüen — Member of the Board of Trustees, Francisco Marroquín University, Guatemala
John Mackey — Co‐Founder and Co‐CEO, Whole Foods Market
Herman Mashaba — Former Chairman, Free Market Foundation, South Africa
Ruth Richardson — Former Minister of Finance, New Zealand
Vernon Smith — Nobel Laureate, Professor of Economics and Law, Chapman University
Vicente Fox is the former president of Mexico. Fox began his career as a businessman, working his way up to serve as the chief executive of the Coca‐Cola Company in Mexico and Latin America, and later being elected governor of Guanajuato. When elected to the presidency in 2000, he broke more than 70 years of single‐party rule in the country by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)—the longest‐ruling party in the world at the time. His presidency is considered a key moment in Mexico’s democratization, and his tenure was characterized by economic stability. After leaving office, Fox and his wife Marta Sahagún founded Centro Fox, a nonprofit based in Guanajuato. In recent years he has been an important and outspoken voice for market liberalism, against Latin American populism, and for ending the failed war on drugs, which has had devastating effects on Mexican society.
Mary Anastasia O’Grady is the Americas columnist for the Wall Street Journal and has been a member of its editorial board since 2005. She writes primarily on Latin American politics, economics, and business. She joined the Journal in 1995 and was named a senior editorial‐page writer in 1999. She has received numerous awards for her writing, including the Inter American Press Association’s Daily Gleaner Award for editorial commentary in 1997 and an honorary doctorate from Francisco Marroquín University. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Assumption College and an MBA in financial management from Pace University.