Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Another suspicious "hate speech" case in Latvia

It looks like Latvia has another "hate speech" case, with one Ingus Graudiņš getting a suspended sentence for writing anti-Russian comments on an unnamed internet website. According to media reports, Graudiņš was involved in some kind of scuffle with Russians on the street, then went off and wrote some kind of rant or a series of anti-Russian rants. Apparently strong, perhaps racist language was used, though none of the matter-of-fact reports I have seen quote anything that the accused wrote.
As a defender of free speech, I am against any and all hate speech laws. Speech is speech - you may dislike it, hate it, be enraged by it, but you should not empower the government to imprison people simply for what they say or write, no matter who it enrages, insults, or offends. Civil libel and slander cases are another thing, but even here I would tread very carefully, especially if public figures are involved. If you choose the limelight, well, realize that sometimes it can be a targeting beacon for shit.
The case of Graudiņš, on the facts that I know, looks like a selective political prosecution in order to have a chilling effect on discussion of ethnic issues ahead of referendum on making Russian a second state language that will be held in early 2012. Depraved racist ravings are regular, daily occurances on Latvian internet portals and there should be a line of hundreds outside the courts if all these comments were to be prosecuted. I searched but couldn't find (portal content shifts) a series of comments I saw to some news story earlier today blaming "the Jews" for whatever it was that  had happened. This is so commonplace, along with the lambasting of gays and advocating their imprisonment or extermination, that one regards it as part of the written background noise on the Latvian internet.
Certainly this does not reflect well on Latvian society, but ignorance, bigotry and folly can't be remedied by repressive police methods and the stifling of political debate, even if one or several of the many voice in the debate are raving and raging, rather than making arguments. Sad, but let's not fill prisons over it.
Another worrying thing is that we have had several outrages against free expression in this country, the latest being a police raid on an internet site, but there has been absolutely no reaction, not even a two-sentence mention on the Index on Censorship website or its free speech blogs.  We had police arrest spontaneous demonstrators, we had an internet medium's office raided, editor detained for 48 hours, servers seized, and now a rather suspicious hate speech case. I informed Index about all of these. May I kindly ask Index on Censorship- why the fuck are you completely ignoring this?


Anonīmais Šakālis said...

Juri, have you submitted any content to keepers of that Index on Censorshit registry?

Juris Kaža said...

Yes, I sent them material on all the recent cases and I have contributed to Index before.

Anonymous said...

Hi Juris, what is your thoughts on cyber bullying for all ages, is that still free speech? Thanks for the blog, Kurt

Natasha Schmidt said...

Juris, can you please let me know who you were in contact with here at Index? We were unaware of this case and would be very interested in receiving more information. I don't know what might have happened with your initial email but can you re-send to me? Many thanks, Natasha Schmidt, Assistant Editor

Juris Kaža said...

Hi Natasha,
On my way to the states, will forward my stuff in the next day or two.