Estonia could be fined for not introducing 'hate speech' legislation

Estonia may be fined by the European Commission for not introducing legislation which criminalizes hate speech. The European Union agreed to introduce the measures in 2008, but Estonia has not yet done so.

The legislation would include making it punishable by law to incite violence based on ethnicity skin color, religion and religious beliefs, ETV's current affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) reported on Tuesday.

As these laws have not yet been introduced into Estonian law, the country is threatened by an infringement proceeding by the European Commission.

Minister of Justice Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) told AK: "Letters have been composed for countries that the commission has complaints about, they will be sent letters. A letter has not yet been received by Estonia, so we have to calmly wait for the letter, read it through, see what the complaints are and according to that, future activities will be formed."

At the weekend, Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) also referred to the possible infringement proceeding. The Estonian representation at the European Commission said on September 22 that no official notes have been composed for Estonia and they could only specify when they arrive.

Aeg said that when transposing such a directive into Estonian law, care must be taken to not restrict freedom of speech.

Minister of the Interior Mart Helme (EKRE) said EKRE intends to fight the introduction of such laws.

"If this infringement procedure imposes a fine on Estonia, we will pay the fine. We will go before the court. This trial will certainly take years, but we will simply not let them manipulate us," Helme said.

Chairman of the Reform Party Kaja Kallas pointed out the Estonian constitution also prohibits religious and racial discrimination.

"More broadly, there would be difficult points as to whether or not this is a restriction on freedom of speech, but if we are talking about incitement to hatred and incitement to violence based on race, ethnicity, skin color, then because it is a growing problem, it should be clearly stated," she said.


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Editor: Roberta Vaino, Helen Wright

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