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Czech Constitutional Court rules against hatred on the Internet in case involving threats against children

4.1.2022 12:24
The original photograph of this first-grade class in the Plynárenská School in Teplice, Czech Republic sparked a wave of online racism in 2017. The word in Cyrillic superimposed on the image is
The original photograph of this first-grade class in the Plynárenská School in Teplice, Czech Republic sparked a wave of online racism in 2017. The word in Cyrillic superimposed on the image is "Neklan", a reference to the Facebook page named after a mythical Bohemian prince and featuring nationalist content from which the photo was shared (it has since been deleted). News server Romea.cz has blurred the faces of the pupils in order to protect their identities.

The Czech Constitutional Court has ruled that in serious cases the criminal law can be used to combat hate speech on the Internet in a democratic society and that it is necessary to do so. In a brief resolution, the court has rejected a complaint from a man who wrote hateful commentary underneath a photograph of first-graders from a school in Teplice.

The man was convicted and sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for three years. The order rejecting his constitutional complaint is publicly available in the court's database.

Arab and Romani children, for the most part, were shown in the photograph as attending the first grade at the Plynárenská Primary School. "They're from the Plynárenská ["Gasworks"] Primary School. The solution is obvious," Vítězslav Kroupa commented beneath a photograph of the class on Facebook.   

According to a recent Supreme Court verdict, his commentary was hate speech and can neither be considered "black humor" nor defended by his right to freedom of expression. Kroupa was referring to the annihilation of "undesirable ethnic groups" in the gas chambers, the same way the Nazis systematically put Jewish and Romani people to death during the Second World War, the court has ruled.

In the constitutional complaint, the defense reiterated that the comment was intended as a joke, that it was harmless and, moreover, that it was even allegedly "socially necessary", as it drew attention to the cultural and "civilizational" differences among people. The constitutional complaint called the comment a "rational", still-admissible expression of "political dissent".

According to the Constitutional Court, however, the judiciary has explained in detail and logically that this was hate speech, i.e., a statement aimed at inciting hatred, specifically against children of other than Czech ethnicity. "Hate speech on the Internet, as one of the types of hate speech, needs to be combated in a democratic society, in serious cases through the criminal law as well," the resolution says.

Kroupa was also convicted of posting images of a German Imperial eagle holding a Nazi swastika and of the Nazis Hermann Göring and Adolf Hitler to social media. The photo of Hitler with his right arm raised in the Nazi salute was supplemented by the commentary "Beautiful White Dreams, Friends".

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Facebook, Hate, Internet, Ústavní soud



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