Commission accused of censorship
By Philip Ebels
The European Commission on Friday (15 June) was accused of censorship for omitting from a report on men's health issues such as homosexuality, condom use, divorce and suicide. The commission, for its part, denies any wrongdoing.
The 2011 report was commissioned, according to the tender, in order “to identify gaps of information and data relating to men's health ... and identify any options for action at national or EU level."
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An “extended” version of the final report gives a detailed account of “the state of men’s health in Europe,” ranging from cardiovascular disease to dental caries to gender identity disorders.
A shorter, more accessible version, however, leaves out the latter, as well as parts on sexual behaviour and condom use, divorce, suicide, and a whole chapter on problems of the male reproductive system. A two-page leaflet is also silent on these issues.
“I think it is censorship,” Svend Aage Madsen, chief psychologist at the Copenhagen University Hospital and co-author of the report, told EUobserver.
“It is taking away things so that people do not see it.”
The decision is particularly hazardous, he said, since it is the short report - not the long one - that is printed on paper, distributed, and read by policymakers. The 400-plus pages of the long report are only available online.
“If you don’t talk about the reproductive system or divorce - a main cause of ill health for men - you put men’s health in danger,” he said.
“And if you don’t talk about homosexuality and the particular health-related issues, you discriminate,” he added.
Madsen and his colleagues had themselves already produced a shorter version of the report. But the commission chose to cut nonetheless.
Alan White, a professor of men’s health at Leeds Metropolitan University and winner of the tender, told EUobserver he too would have liked to see the original prevail.
Policymakers today would not be able to make as well-informed a decision. “You don’t have a complete picture,” he said.
Frederic Vincent, EU spokesperson for health, confirmed that “the difference between the extended and the short version is that the shorter is aimed at politicians and key stakeholders ... and intended to give a short overview.”
He wrote in an e-mail that the decision to omit certain sections was only made for reasons of priority. “The two reports are on-line, so where's the censorship?” he wrote.
Meanwhile, Danish centre-left MEP Christel Schaldemose has asked the commission to explain.
“It is outrageous,” she told EUobserver. “It looks as if they have censored [the report].”
It is not the first time that EU policymakers are coy about issues relating to homosexuality, she added.
“They are trying to avoid all the sensitive words. It is extremely worrying.”