Valdis Rošāns, a self-proclaimed Latvian right-wing extremist charged with hate-speech writings on the internet (including comments on a Latvian-language libertarian blog that I wrote), was given a two-year suspended sentence by a Latvian court on August 18.
Rošāns published remarks that were allegedly demeaning to Jews, gays and other minorities. He claims his internet comments were reported to the authorities by Dialogi.lv, an organization dedicated to tolerance and, among other things, to diminishing hate and abusive behavior on the internet.
While these are admirable aims, I believe Latvia and other European countries should adhere to the broadest possible interpretation of free expression. Repulsive as some of the tbings Rošāns has written may have been, they should not be grounds for imprisonment, suspended or otherwise.
Supporters of free speech such as Article 19 have argued against hate speech laws. They are counterproductive and dangerous, giving the power to chill or even censor free debate and expression. Repressing people like Rošāns not only violates his right to free expression, it also, as Christopher Hitchens pointed out, violates my right to be exposed to all kinds of expression and allowing me, not the state, to decide what I will or will not listen to or read.