The Riigikogu Legal Affairs Committee has decided to remove from the Ministry of Justice's war symbols bill a section that would have added broader hate speech regulation. The committee hopes the bill will be passed in late April.
Draft legislation to ban symbols of aggression will reach the first reading in altered form, the committee decided. The bill bans the use of symbols that vindicate aggressors and prescribes punishments for joining an aggressor's armed forces.
"It was a unanimous decision to pull the hate speech section. We reached a positive consensus, which is what I was hoping for," committee chair Marek Jürgenson (Center) said.
Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) said that the decision was made with a heavy heart. Whether to include hate speech regulation in the bill also split opinion inside the Center Party.
"Are we really going to punish people for brandishing certain symbols but consider verbal abuse, insults and general calls to violence fine," the justice minister said.
Lauri said that leaving the section in the bill would have hindered its passing but added that she believes Estonia should return to the hate speech subject matter in the near future.
After the first reading, a similar bill by the opposition Isamaa party will be attached to the government's draft legislation.
"We can still change the text of the bill in proceedings, the door is open to amendment proposals, and we have a few more ideas for how to phrase things more accurately. I believe our intentions align with those of the government in this matter," party leader Helir-Valdor Seeder said.
The Riigikogu is set to pass the bill on April 21.
Editor: Marcus Turovski