A Belgian court has rejected a claim that Tintin in the Congo is racist and tossed a request to withdraw the controversial comic book.
A Brussels court issued a decision late Friday rejecting the legal claim by Mbutu Mondondo Bienvenu, a Congolese man who launched the proceedings in 2007. At the time, some U.S. and British bookstores moved the title away from their children's sections after complaints.
Mbutu was a political science student living in Brussels when he started the campaign. He filed a complaint that Tintin in the Congo, the second book in the series by Georges Remi (who worked under the pen name Hergé), was filled with racist stereotypes.
He called for publisher Moulinsart to withdraw the comic from the market or, alternately, to add a warning label or preface explaining that it was written in a different era, as is the case with the published English versions.
The Belgian court ruled Friday that the book — published in a new edition in 1946 — was written during the colonial era and that there was no evidence that Belgian cartoonist Hergé willfully intended to incite racial hatred with the tale.
"It is clear that neither the story, nor the fact that it has been put on sale, has a goal to ... create an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment," the court said in its judgment.
Back in the spotlight because of the recent film adaptation, The Adventures of Tintin was originally a comic series created by Hergé in 1929. His stories about the intrepid, adventure-seeking young journalist Tintin — were subsequently collected in book form and read by fans around the globe.
Congo was a Belgian colony until 1960 and, over the years, Tintin in the Congo has been repeatedly blasted for its negative, demeaning depictions of Africans. Hergé, later in life, even said that he wasn't happy with the work.
"You have to take the work in its context and compare it with the information and clichés of its time," Alain Berenboom, a representative for Moulinsart and French publishing house Casterman, told Agence France-Presse.
Mbutu's lawyers said their client plans to appeal.