EFHR has made legal punishments for offensive comments becoming a standard procedure
The European Foundation of Human Rights (EFHR) is overjoyed with another success and another case won. Vilnius City District Court (Vilniaus miesto apylinkės teismas) issued a writ concerning another offensive comment written under an article published online by a Lithuanian citizen, Romualdas R, in which he compared Poles to “gays”.
The comment by Mr Romualdas R appeared on 9th December 2012, under one of the articles on a petition of the European Parliament related to amendments to the Lithuanian Education Act. In the comments section Mr Romualdas R compared Poles to homosexuals who “have not even been touched yet and are already shouting about being oppressed” and that “crap is even more normal because it stinks only when it is touched, yet they…” (“Sh… ir tai normalesnis, tik pajudinus jis pradeda smirdeti, o shie…“). The court decided that even though the author of the comment did not incite violence against Polish people, the message delivered by this remark expressed abundant disdain and willingness to humiliate the Polish nation.
A fine of 260 Lithuanian litas was imposed on Mr Romualdas R., a 58 year old man. The court admitted that the man publicly affronted and insulted Polish people. It is the 24th case won by EFHR on the basis of complaints filed at the public prosecutor’s office within a campaign aimed at changing the sense of impunity among people who are violating human dignity. Despite the fact that the punishment for Mr Romualdas is not severe, it has a symbolic meaning. It proves that even writing offensive opinions in the virtual world will not remain unnoticed and that the Lithuanian judiciary, thanks to many years of EFHR’s interventions, is going to defend people who have been discriminated against and promote tolerance among nations. The judge added that the writ issued by the court was quite a mild penalty because Mr Romualdas had pleaded guilty and regretted his actions.
By informing prosecution agencies, EFHR would like to make public institutions responsible for abiding the law start noticing the seriousness of the situation and the greater threats which arise from it. The country should not be inactively observing the tide of hatred in cyberspace rising on a grand scale. Everybody has to be aware that “freedom of speech” should serve to promote tolerance too and raise awareness among representatives of various nations, religions, sexes and other social groups.
EFHR encourages everybody to report offensive comments or discriminatory job advertisements which can be submitted to the Foundation’s address, and to join the actions of tolerance promotion (training on human rights, initiative against hate speech on the Internet, access to educational materials etc. For more information see: http://www.efhr.eu). You are welcome to cooperate with us.
Tłumaczenie by Ewa Żakowska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Ewa Żakowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.