Liisa Pakosta, representing the Eesti 200 party at Estonia's coalition negotiations, said that the party wants a more concrete definition of hate speech in draft legislation to amend the Penal Code. Eesti 200 do not find the current bill by the Reform Party satisfactory.
"Eesti 200 believes that change is needed to protect people but finds the previous bill unsatisfactory in that it can be interpreted too broadly. We see unwarranted risks in terms of freedom of speech," Pakosta told ERR.
"We find that the definition of hate speech needs to be improved by removing vagueness in order to protect free speech, designating as hate speech efforts to publicly incite hatred, violence of discrimination aimed against groups of people and resulting in a clear threat to public order. Concepts in the provision, such as and especially "public order," need to be more clearly defined to avoid faction in society and protect free speech," she added.
"Were the bill passed in its current phrasing, there could come a future government of less than savory nature and decree that it finds a gay parade a threat to national order. Go angling for hate speech, so to speak. These concepts need to be accurately phrased in the law if only for this reason," Pakosta remarked.
She emphasized that both free speech and the right to security are extremely important rights.
"We know from history that people can be played out against one another based on group markers to the point of it causing major social upheaval. To avoid the horrors of World War II, those of the war in Ukraine being repeated, efforts to limit the incitement of violence against groups need to be made. Calls to destroy the hohols or deport Estonians pose a threat to society if they become serious enough to motivate further steps," the Eesti 200 politician explained.
ERR asked Pakosta whether it is possible to concretize the bill to the point where threat to free speech can be ruled out. "It is possible with us," she replied (Eesti 200's election slogan – ed.)
"We want to see the provision made much clearer and the concept therein more accurately defined so people would understand where the line is drawn, for the average person to know that line. Also, for that line not to jeopardize another important freedom, which is free speech. A short way to sum up freedom of speech is that while a person is within their rights to brandish fists and be angry, that right ends precisely where another person's nose begins."
Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas said after Monday's round of coalition talks that the sides have very detailed ideas for defining hate speech, including that it should be considered as an aggravating circumstance when a person commits a crime as a result of hate speech directed against a certain group.
"We are talking about prohibiting incitement of hatred in accordance with the Constitution. The Estonian Constitution clearly states that incitement of hatred must be prohibited on the level of legislation," Kallas said.
Liisa Pakosta added that Eesti 200 wants additional protection for cyber bullying. While such cases usually do not fall under criminalized hate speech as the sides lack group affiliation or markers, they also require hashing out in terms of differences.
"We will conduct an analysis of virtual violence and relevant pain spots and adjust current legal acts as necessary, with the goal of more effective protection of victims and to prevent cyber bullying. We will lay down more effective provisions to protect the rights of teachers, including from cyber bullying," Pakosta said, once more emphasizing that the latter makes for a separate topic.
Editor: Marcus Turovski