Prosecutor general: I oppose the criminalization of hate speech

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Prosecutor general Andres Parmas. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Estonia's prosecutor general has said he opposes the criminalization of hate speech and worries it would divert resources away from other crimes.

Eesti Päevaleht published an interview with Prosecutor general Andres Parmas on Wednesday, in which he said. while talking about hate speech: "I have always opposed it and I still do. In my opinion, it is a bad idea."

He said hate speech is already criminalized in Estonia if it involves real danger or consequences.

"Extreme caution should be exercised in extending criminalization. Freedom of speech is a very important value for society, and lightly restricting it is actually shooting oneself in the foot," Parmas added.

"As the head of the prosecutor's office, it cannot be ignored that such a change in the law means an additional workload for both the prosecutor's office and the police and the court. This resource must be bourne by the prosecutor's office at the expense of other crimes." 

Last week, Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) said that the government is planning to add the criminalization of hate speech to the Riigikogu's agenda.

Lauri said the levels of penalties should be reevaluated and when hate speech becomes a criminal conviction a prison sentence of one to three years could be imposed.

In October, the European Commission launched infringement proceedings against Estonia as the country has not correctly criminalized hate speech, by omitting the criminalization of public incitement to violence or hatred when directed at groups and has not created adequate penalties.

A bill submitted by the Reform Party when it was in opposition which would have criminalize hate speech was voted down by members of the Riigikogu in December. The coalition said more urgent issues should be discussed in the middle of a pandemic.

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Editor: Helen Wright

Source: Eesti Päevaleht

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