Hate Speech against LGBT People Sanctioned by Moldova ’s Law on Freedom of Expression

Submitted by GENDERDOC-M Information Centre

Hate Speech and Incitement to Discrimination against LGBT People Sanctioned by Moldova’s Law on Freedom of Expression

On 23 November 2011, a Chisinau court of the first instance issued a victorious judgment in the case “Oleg Brega vs. www.privesc.eu”. The website was found liable for hate speech and incitement to discrimination against homosexual people and their allies because it had not moderated visitors’ comments in the open-access chat room during the live transmission of the press conference held by the GENDERDOC-M Information Centre in February 2011. Back then, the civil rights activist Oleg Brega participated in the website’s live chat discussion where he was verbally assaulted for defending gay people from visitors’ hate discourse. The website is obliged to publish apologies to Oleg Brega on its front page and pay moral reparations to him, as well as court costs, in the amount of 5200 Moldovan lei (about 325 euros).

The plaintiff’s lawyer Doina Ioana Straisteanu says it is the first judgment of such kind ruled in the Republic of Moldova and that’s why she can understand negation of the lawfulness of the court judgment by Vitalie Esanu, one of the founders and managers of www.privesc.eu. “We have yet to learn that as owner of a website, no matter who are the users that leave their ugly comments and incitements to hate and violence against LGBT people, the liability to have left them and use our Internet space to promote and propagate discrimination and hate, is ours. We, lawyers, call this assisted communication” continued Doina Ioana Straisteanu.

The www.privesc.eu website has previously adopted an internal regulatory guide assuming responsibility to moderate discussions, delete comments that are hurtful to anyone and ban the user for improper use of the chat room. They have assumed this responsibility because they admit that the freedom of expression is not an absolute right and it needs to be regulated. In Moldova, there are enough examples of abuse of freedom of expression used to incite to violence, hatred, discrimination against a particular group of people. In this case it was done against LGBT.

Regretfully, in our case, which creates a precedent for Moldova , www.privesc.eu has forgotten its own rules, and not only did they admit a hateful discourse, they also incited other users to it. It was done in the chat room opened for any comments, while transmitting live an LGBT-related event. To trigger the responsibility of www.privesc.eu for the hate speech and incitement to discrimination, there was no need to identify users that had left inadmissible comments. It was enough to identify www.privesc.eu as the owner and moderator of the website and the chat. They did not deny that they had opened the chat room to users to communicate and comment on live transmission, and yet tolerated hate speech, as well as they co-incited to discrimination against LGBT people.

As Doina Ioana Straisteanu states, the court’s judgment shall not be interpreted as a beginning of censoring the Internet, but as a case of setting a standard for the liability of everyone in exercising their freedom of expression. Hate speech and incitement to discrimination and violence falls outside the freedom of expression and is prohibited by Moldova’s Law #64 on Freedom of Expression and by the European Court of Human Rights under Article 10, paragraph 2, of the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in particular, when hate speech and incitement to discrimination is spread in an intolerant society against the LGBT group.

The court case has been a part of the GENDERDOC-M Information Centre’s running strategic litigation project, which is financially supported by the UNDP office in Moldova.

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