According to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the term “hate speech” covers all forms of expression that spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, antisemitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance.
Hate speech can be a crime under the Criminal Code of Finland, discrimination under the Non-Discrimination Act or the Gender Equality Act, or an otherwise hostile utterance.
The Finnish Ministry of Justice remarked today on a press release that hate speech punishable by law includes hate speech targeted at a characteristic of an individual or group of individuals.
Under the Criminal Code of Finland, a harsher sentence may be imposed when the motive for the act is the victim’s race, skin colour, descent, national or ethnic origin, religion or conviction, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
If hate speech is targeted at a single individual, it can constitute defamation or menace, for instance. If it is targeted at a group of individuals, it can be considered ethnic agitation.
Campaign against hate launched
The Finnish Government announced on 4th February the launch of a communications campaign aiming to combat hate speech. The initiative is part of the Against Hate project coordinated by the Ministry of Justice.
The campaign aims to increase internet users’ awareness of what kinds of content constitute punishable hate speech. It also seeks to encourage people to report punishable hate speech to the police.
The Against Hate campaign consists of TV public service announcements, social media activity and online materials to help people to identify punishable hate speech.
The core message of the campaign is that hate speech can be a punishable offence and the internet is subjected to the same rules as anywhere else.
The idea of the campaign is to take part in the public discussion on hate speech from the perspective of the punishability of the act. The campaign hashtag is #againsthate.
“Not everyone is clear on what constitutes hate speech. It is important for people to know that hate speech can be punishable and, in such cases, should be reported to the police. The Finnish Discrimination Monitoring Group published a report on the effects of hate speech in March 2016. According to the report, the second most common place for hate speech to occur is the internet, especially public discussion forums and social media sites,” says project manager Milla Aaltonen.
According to the report, hate speech and harassment have a strong impact on people’s general feeling of safety, mental health and confidence in public authorities.
Hate vs. free speech
The Ministry of Justice remarks on its release that freedom of speech does not include violating human dignity
In fact, Finnish legislation and international conventions place limits on the right to freedom of speech. It does not protect the right to violate other people’s fundamental rights or human dignity. The Criminal Code of Finland limits freedom of speech by laying down provisions on ethnic agitation, for instance. This means that punishable hate speech is also a hate crime.
The Finnish Government stresses that the objective of the project Against Hate is to develop work against hate crimes and hate speech. The project’s activities focus on developing reporting on hate speech, enhancing the capacity of the authorities to respond to hate speech, and promoting support services for the victims of hate crimes.
The project network includes a wide variety of operators, including authorities and organisations.
The other participating ministries, in addition to the Ministry of Justice, are the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
Other network members include the Non-Discrimination Ombudsman, the Equality Ombudsman, the Office of the Prosecutor General, the National Police Board, Police University College, European Institute for Crime Prevention and Control, affiliated with the United Nations (HEUNI), Victim Support Finland, the Finnish Youth Co-operation Allianssi and the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI).
For more information on the Against Hate project click HERE
If you see hate speech on any website you can report it to the police HERE