Freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the UDHR states that “everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”. The version of Article 19 in the ICCPR later amends this by stating that the exercise of these rights carries “special duties and responsibilities” and may “therefore be subject to certain restrictions” when necessary “[f]or respect of the rights or reputation of others” or “[f]or the protection of national security or of public order (order public), or of public health or morals”.
In May 2010, the Warsaw prosecutor’s office charged Doda with the crime of “offending religious sensibilities” for remarking in a year-earlier television interview that she believed more in dinosaurs than she did in the Bible because “it is hard to believe in something written by people who drank too much wine and smoked weed.” In January 2012, she was found guilty and fined 5,000 złoty by local court Warszawa-Mokotów. Her appeal was not effective. In June 2012, district court in Warsaw upheld the verdict of the local court.
Some of Polish publicists, as politician Włodzimierz Cimoszewicz, logician Wojciech Krysztofiak, pharmacologist Jerzy Vetulani and members of Palikot’s Movement criticized the judgment. Doda commented that “she was a victim of Polish anachronistic jurisdiction” and said that she will submit the case to European Court of Human Rights for consideration.
Article 196 of the Criminal Code provides as follows: “Whoever offends the religious feelings of other persons by publicly insulting an object of religious worship, or a place designated for public religious ceremonies, is liable to pay a fine, have his or her liberty limited, or be deprived of his or her liberty for a period of up to two years.”
Defamation (including libel and slander)
Incitement to imminent lawless action
Solicitations to commit crimes
Some experts also would add treason,
Should our democracy permit hate speech?
NO—Arguments to Oppose the Deliberation Question
No democracies allow absolute freedom of
expression. By defining hate speech as
unacceptable, the government balances freedom
of expression w
ith other essential
democratic values such as respect and tolera
nce for diversity. The balance is established
through laws, which citizens in a democracy can always change.
Punishing hate speech provides equal protecti
on for all persons in a democracy. Punishing
hate speech helps to prevent unequal power
relations from becoming overt discrimination.
When hate speech is directed against weak
or despised groups, such groups suffer not only
from the hatred itself but also because
they lack the power of the majority.
A message of hate, spoken once, can be more
powerful than a message
of tolerance spoken
many times. The “chilling” effects of hate
speech on other, more positive forms of
democratic speech should not be underestimated.
Throughout history, words have been used to
identify persons and gr
oups for persecution. By
the time popular opinion or the
legal process can act, it may be
too late. A law that punishes
hate speech sends the right message
about society’s real intentions.
Certain symbols and expressions
are clearly hateful and have no
meaningful social content.
Like the Nazi swastika, these expressions are desi
gned solely to create fear and to intimidate
other people. Such symbols have no useful
purpose. Society loses nothing by banning them.
Should our democracy permit hate speech?
YES—Arguments to Support the Deliberation Question
Hate speech is despicable, but it is not a crime.
While certain words hurt and are hateful, they
are only words—the pain they cause is a small price to pay for freedom.
Just because something is legal does not mean
it is necessarily acceptable or desirable. A
better way to fight hateful speech and ideas is
through the use of free expression and “loving”
speech to promote the kind of society that people want.
Laws that prohibit hate speech will have the effect of “chilling” free speech. If the
government has the power to punish expression,
the definition of prohibited speech will
grow. All governments resist giving up powers
they already have. Governments should be
permitted to control only what people can and
cannot do, not what they say or believe.
In order for laws to be effectiv
e, they have to be workable.
Laws that prohibit hate speech
keep the government involved in making never-ending lists of “permitted” and “forbidden”
expressions. That wastes public money and effo
rt. The police and the courts can use their
time better by prosecuting and
punishing actions, not thoughts.
Expression is ambiguous. A symbol
of hate for one group is a symbol of solidarity for
another group. Government should punish only
the actions people take against each other.
Government should not punish how people th
ink or how people express themselves.