Court of Appeal in Belgrade confirmed that hate speech against LGBT population can not be justified by freedom of speech and information

Belgrade, 16.02.2012.

Court of Appeal in Belgrade issued a second instance verdict in the Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) case against the daily newspaper “Press” d.o.o, dismissing as unfounded the defendants appeals and upheld the first instance judgment of High Court in Belgrade, which established the text – readers’ comments published July, 2nd 2009. at the Internet site “Press Online” are hate speech against LGBT population, and that Press discriminatory treated this population by permitting and facilitating the above comments to be placed on the site.

Besides that this is confirmation of the first judgment for hate speech against LGBT people in the history of the judiciary in Serbia, it is of great importance because it is one of the first verdicts pronounced on the basis of the Serbian Anti-Discrimination Law.

The Court of Appeal in the explanation of the verdict, among other things, stated that the High Court correctly concluded that the controversial comments posted on the website of the defendant are insults to LGBT people and inciting hatred and violence towards them. The Court of Appeal confirmed that media freedom is limited by the prohibition of publication of ideas and opinions that incite discrimination, regardless of whether it is about ideas and thinking readers or journalists, or other responsible persons. Explaining the decision stands and the fact that the comments are removed from the website, does not absolve the defendant of responsibility, as the moderator of the website was required to prevent their publication. The Court of Appeal concluded that the prohibition of hate speech is not censorship of the true image of society, because the goal for which the prohibition of hate speech has established is the prevention of transmission of ideas that can have unforeseen harmful consequences for democratic processes in society and the development of society as a whole.

The Court forbade to “Press Online” to re-publish those texts on the website and ordered to publish a print edition of the verdict in full, without comment and without delay, and ordered also to pay court costs to GSA.

GSA’s Litigation Service has filed a claim against the newspaper “Press” on the basis of the Anti – Discrimination Law and the Law on the Public Information, because this media company on the article “I will be a gay icon” (on its online edition Press Online) permitted publication of comments of the readers which have contained hate speech against LGBT population. The vast majority of comments was contained the most banal insults, calls on murder, slaughtering, threatening to attack on lives and property of LGBT people including for example: “…and I never, really I will never understand these perverse people”; “We have to stop on these way, it is sickness and this should be treated…these should be closed to the ghetto…”; “Comrade Tito, come back to kill all these bastards! Comrade Tito, kill all this immorality!!!”; “than, pal, let’s slaughter them. and so they will tell that we slaughtered them”, “poor guy is completely sick… but it should be immediately put into isolation!!!”; “I think people, like this gay subject, should not get that much playing time on television, however they should not live”; “We are waiting for you, there will be everything…means, there will be beating…”, etc…

These comments are removed from the site ten days later, after the GSA’s Litigation Service filed a claim.

GSA is pleased with this verdict of Court of Appeal in Belgrade. Hate speech, ie. any reference to violence, hatred and intolerance, and their encouragement, incitement and justification to a person or group of persons because of their sexual orientation or any other personal characteristics, are always just one step away from the implementation of violence against the same persons and other unforeseen harmful effects on the whole society.

GSA also reminds the public that the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg (ECHR) made a decision last week with conclusion that the criminal judgment of the Supreme Court of Sweden against persons who were distributing leaflets offensive to persons of homosexual orientation does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights, and that the content of leaflets was “unnecessarily offensive” to be protected by laws on freedom of speech. The leaflets that were distributed by the defendant in a high school stated that homosexuality is “deviant sexual preference” which has “morally destructive effect on society” and that homosexyality is the reason for the genesis of HIV and AIDS, and that “homosexual lobby “justify pedophilia. ECHR ruled that these statements contain serious and damaging allegations, even without a direct call to act out of hatred, pointing out that discrimination based on sexual orientation as serious as discrimination based on race, ethnic origin or skin color.

GSA Info Center