Estonia one of two EU countries not to criminalize hate speech ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Flags.
Flags. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

The European Commission has started infringement proceedings against Estonia, since the state hasn't enacted criminal legislation against hate speech. At the same time, several member states are moving to even more strict laws regarding hate crimes. ETV current affairs show "Välisilm" investigated examples of hate speech and its consequences.

A couple of weeks ago, the European Commission announced that it is starting infringement proceedings against Estonia related to the question of criminalizing hate speech and hate crimes, since the actions have not been criminalized although Estonia has taken that obligation at the level of the EU.

While the proceedings have only started and the process will take a long time, it can be predicted from the statements made so far that the current government coalition is unlikely to criminalize hate speech. Estonia and Romania are the only countries in the EU that haven't met the requirement.

What is the hate speech that Estonia doesn't want to criminalize? ETV current affairs show "Välisilm" looked at examples from some other European countries. The closest example comes from Lithuania, where the local media regulator decided to take NTV Mir Lithuania channel off free distribution in 2015 because the channel allegedly incited hatred between Russian and Lithuanian communities after the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The head of the LIthuanian investigative commission, Edmundas Vaitekunas, said that at the time there had been an increase in the humor that mocked the Baltic States, on several local Russian-language channels. However, the Commission did not seek to ban them. The aim was to get the shows inciting inter-ethnic hatred off the air. The case finally reached the European Court of Justice, which ruled in favor of Lithuania last year.

Currently, the issue is strongest in two groups. One of these is the radical right-wing forces who are flirting with a form of national socialism, the show found, on the other, alleged terror propaganda spread between Islamist radicals.

Even though Estonia and Romania haven't taken on the current directive, several European countries wish to widen it alreadt. The main issue is how to limit freedom of speech as little as possible. But societies of countries with a long history of democracy know well that with freedom, there comes responsibility, the show reported.

Markus Kärner, Deputy Secretary General of the Criminal Policy Department at the Ministry of Justice, outlined the complaints.

"In 2008, the European Commission accepted a decision, which obligates the member state to criminalize heavier forms of racism and xenophobia. The proceeding arises from the fact the commission has found that some of our regulations do not meet the decision," Kärner explained.

"In conclusion, the complaints are that incitement to hatred, violence, discriminating related to certain personal identifiers, is only punishable as a misdemeanor offense. And this only when there has been a real danger to somebody's life, well-being or property. One of the gripes is that these actions should be criminalized as such, and at least one year's prison sentence should be possible to be imposed," Kärner added.

Estonia's answer to the European Commission is in the making, "Välisilm" reported.

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Editor: Roberta Vaino

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