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National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen has expressed his support for criminalising hate speech.
National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen has expressed his support for criminalising hate speech.

National Police Commissioner Seppo Kolehmainen has expressed his support for criminalising hate speech.

“There's a terribly lot of hate speech in our society. It's a feature of bullying and altercations, political activities, extremist propaganda, social media and so on. Hate speech hasn't been criminalised under a dedicated section of the Criminal Code,” he points out in an interview with Uusi Suomi.

The section on ethnic agitation, he adds, will not suffice to eradicate hate speech as the definition of hate speech is broader than that of ethnic agitation.

Kolehmainen points out that a priority in criminal investigations is to identify prosecutable offences, with the possibilities in the case of hate speech currently being defamation, the dissemination of information violating personal privacy and menace.

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“Applying these offences to hate speech is challenging,” he says. “You'll run into some difficult evidential questions.”

Paula Risikko (NCP), the Minister of the Interior, proposed earlier that the legislation be re-examined to determine whether it provides sufficient means to intervene in the activities of violent extremists, such as acts of hate. Her proposal has received some support from both Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) and Jari Lindström (PS), the Minister of Employment and Justice.

“It is warranted [in light of recent events] to immediately examine whether the legislation should somehow be expanded, if it's difficult to interpret,” said Lindström.

“Finland has a freedom of assembly and movement, but racist, threatening and violent activities are punishable under law. The Constitution also protects freedom of speech, but [the protection] doesn't extend to racist remarks,” he added.

Kolehmainen reiterates that hate speech encompasses a wide variety of speech acts, such as bullying. “This is what I've thought about in terms of lawmaking after what happened two weeks ago; this could be a way for us to create the tools to intervene more efficiently from a preventive standpoint,” he says.

“[Hateful] remarks lead easily to physical violence. There's a clear continuation between the two,” adds Kolehmainen.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Roni Rekomaa – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi

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