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‘Hate Speech’ Is Now A Criminal Offense: Has It Come To This?

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This article was originally published at StateOfUnion.org. Publications approved for syndication have permission to republish this article, such as Microsoft News, Yahoo News, Newsbreak, UltimateNewswire and others. To learn more about syndication opportunities, visit About Us.

The legal landscape surrounding hate speech in Europe is characterized by a diverse array of legislative measures.

One year in prison

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Dries Van Langenhove, the founder of a Flemish nationalist youth group in Belgium, was sentenced to one year in prison for posts in a private Facebook group chat. The court ruled the messages promoted Nazi ideology and white supremacy, rejecting the defense that they were jokes.

Social model based on white supremacy

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It considered the large group of 750 members to constitute a public space. Van Langenhove was found to have wanted to undermine democracy and replace it with a social model based on white supremacy.

Infatuated with Nazi ideology

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“The defendant was infatuated with Nazi ideology, which in its implementation caused and continues to cause untold human suffering. The file shows that he wanted to undermine democratic society and replace it with his social model of white supremacy,” the court said.“The forums repeatedly and systematically mocked groups of the population on the basis of so-called race, skin color, nationality, national or ethnic origin or descent, and presented a negative image of these groups or communities and insulted them,” the court added.

Important stand against racism

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He was also barred from public office for 10 years and fined. The ruling was criticized by his political party as a political prosecution, while others supported it as an important stand against racism.

Lost for words

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“This is the absolute state of freedom of speech in Europe. They’re jailing patriotic dissidents. Next time they’ll do this to me, you or anyone who goes against the globalist regime,” Dutch political activist Eva Vlaardingerbroek wrote. “I’m seriously lost for words here. This is full-blown tyranny and we should fight it with all our might.”

Never tolerate or normalise racism

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“This ruling is an important victory for everyone fighting for fair opportunities for all… Greens will never tolerate or normalise racism, because racism is always and everywhere reprehensible and painful,” Green party co-chair Nadia Naji said. It sparked a debate around freedom of speech protections for offensive private discussions online.

Imprisonment as a punitive measure

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While certain European countries have implemented imprisonment as a punitive measure for hate speech, the approach to such laws varies significantly across the continent. In Germany, the criminal offense of “Volksverhetzung” (incitement to hatred) under Section 130 of the Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) carries a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment. This provision is designed to prohibit public incitement of hatred against segments of the population or the endorsement of violent or arbitrary actions against them, reflecting a stringent stance against hate speech.

Aimed to combat hate speech

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In France, the introduction of the Avia law aimed to combat hate speech on social media. The law mandated the removal of content containing hate speech within 24 hours of publication, with non-compliance punishable by up to one year of imprisonment and a fine of up to €15,000. However, the French Constitutional Council rejected significant portions of the law, underscoring the complexities and challenges in implementing stringent measures against hate speech.

Bulgaria’s Criminal Code

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Bulgaria’s Criminal Code stipulates that anyone who publicly makes a discriminatory or hateful statement can face imprisonment for a term ranging from one to four years, along with a fine. The law encompasses incitement to discrimination, violence, or hatred based on race, nationality, or ethnic origin, reflecting a robust legal framework against hate speech.

Punishment of hate speech

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In Russia, the Criminal Code includes provisions for the punishment of hate speech, imposing a penalty of up to five years’ imprisonment for publicly making threatening or insulting statements targeting individuals or groups based on various grounds, including race, religion, sexual orientation, or disability. The law encompasses a broad spectrum of discriminatory expressions and seeks to safeguard against manifestations of hatred and intolerance.

The varying approach

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The varying approach to hate speech legislation and the associated penalties in European countries reflects the nuanced interplay of legal interpretations, cultural dynamics, and societal imperatives. While some nations have adopted stringent measures involving imprisonment for hate speech, others have implemented fines and other punitive measures to address discriminatory expressions.

Impact of hate-fueled expressions

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The legal provisions for imprisonment for hate speech in Europe underscore the complex interplay between freedom of expression and the imperative to combat discriminatory and inflammatory rhetoric. The evolving discourse surrounding hate speech laws and their enforcement reflects a delicate balance between upholding fundamental rights and protecting individuals and groups from the pernicious impact of hate-fueled expressions.

Approaches to addressing hate speech

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Imprisonment for hate speech in Europe is subject to diverse legal provisions and penalties across different countries. The varying approaches to addressing hate speech reflect the multifaceted considerations and legal interpretations shaping the discourse surrounding freedom of expression and the imperative to combat discriminatory and inflammatory rhetoric in European societies.

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