Hate speech

Judgement on Abortion
  • Beizaras and Levickas v. Lithuania: one of the applicants posted a photograph of him kissing his male partner on his Facebook page, which led to hundreds of online hate comments. The applicants alleged that they had been discriminated against on the ground of sexual orientation. They also argued that the Lithuanian authorities’ refusal to launch a pre-trial investigation had left them without the possibility of legal redress. In a unanimous judgement, the Court found violation of Article 14 – prohibition of discrimination, of the European Convention on Human Rights, taken in conjunction with Article 8 -right to respect for private and family life, and Article 13- right to an effective remedy.
  • Savva Terentyev v. Russia: the ECHR( European Court of Human Rights) has applied a very high level of free speech-protection for aggressively insulting and hostile comments about police officers, published on a weblog. The ECHR observes that some of the wordings in the blog post was offensive, insulting and virulent, but, In contrast with the findings by the Russian authorities, the ECHR is of the opinion that Terentyev’s blog did not pose “a clear and imminent danger” and could not be seen as stirring up “base emotions or embedded prejudices” attempting to incite hatred or violence against Russian police officers. Jersild v. Denmark , The journalist, had made a documentary containing extracts from a television interview he had conducted with three members of a group of young people calling themselves the “Greenjackets”, who had made abusive and derogatory remarks about immigrants and ethnic groups in Denmark. The applicant was convicted of aiding and abetting the dissemination of racist remarks. He alleged a breach of his right to freedom of expression.  The Court drew a distinction between the members of the “Greenjackets”, who had made openly racist remarks, and the applicant, who had sought to expose, analyse and explain this particular group of youths and to deal with “specific aspects of a matter that already then was of great public concern”. The documentary as a whole had not been aimed at propagating racist views and ideas, but at informing the public about a social issue. Accordingly, the Court held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the Convention.
  • Gündüz v. Turkey:  The applicant was a self-proclaimed member of an Islamist sect. During a televised debate broadcast in the late evening, he spoke very critically of democracy, describing contemporary secular institutions as “impious”, fiercely criticizing secular and democratic principles and openly calling for the introduction of Sharia law. He was convicted of openly inciting the population to hatred and hostility on the basis of a distinction founded on membership of a religion or denomination. The applicant alleged a violation of his right to freedom of expression. The Court held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the Convention. It noted in particular that the applicant, who had represented the extremist ideas of his sect, with which the public was already familiar, had been taking an active part in an animated public discussion. That pluralist debate had sought to present the sect and its unorthodox views, including the notion that democratic values were incompatible with its conception of Islam. The topic had been the subject of widespread debate in the Turkish media and concerned a problem of general interest. The Court considered that the applicant’s remarks could not be regarded as a call to violence or as hate speech based on religious intolerance. The mere fact of defending sharia, without calling for violence to introduce it, could not be regarded as hate speech.
  • Leroy v. France: The applicant, a cartoonist, complained of his conviction for publicly condoning terrorism following the publication in a Basque weekly newspaper on 13 September 2001 of a drawing representing the attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center with a caption imitating the advertising slogan of a famous brand: “We all dreamt of it… Hamas did it”. He argued that his freedom of expression had been infringed. The Court held that the drawing was not limited to criticism of American imperialism, but supported and glorified the latter’s violent destruction. In this regard, the Court based its finding on the caption which accompanied the drawing, and noted that the applicant had expressed his moral support for those whom he presumed to be the perpetrators of the attacks of 11 September 2001.
  • Hösl-Daum and Others v. Poland: The applicants were charged with insulting the Polish nation and inciting national hatred. They alleged a breach of their right to freedom of expression on account of their conviction for putting up posters in the German language describing atrocities committed after the Second World War by the Polish and the Czechs against the Germans. The Court declared the application inadmissible for non-exhaustion of domestic remedies. It found that, by failing to lodge a constitutional complaint against the impugned provisions of the Criminal Code, the applicants had failed to exhaust the remedy provided for by Polish law.
  • Shaheen Abdullah v Union of India: The Supreme Court directs Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi Governments to take Suo motu action against hate speech crimes without waiting for formal complaints irrespective of the religion of the offender.
  • Vejdeland and others v. Sweden: Four Swedish citizens were prosecuted for going to a secondary school and distributing leaflets containing statements against homosexuality. The applicants were charged with “agitation against a national or ethnic group.” The applicants were sentenced to fines and imprisonment by the District Court. They appealed that decision before the Swedish Court of Appeal, which reversed the decision, noting that punishment was a violation of the right to freedom of expression. The prosecutor appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the District Court but changed the charges to only fines and suspended sentences.
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