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Poland to create internet hate speech guidelines

PR dla Zagranicy
Nick Hodge 09.08.2012 11:03
Poland's attorney general has promised guidelines regarding the accountability of those who express hate speech on the internet.
Photo: sxc.huPhoto: sxc.hu

photo: sxc.hu

Andrzej Seremet's pledge was prompted by a letter addressed to him by progressive Catholic weekly Tygodnik Powszechny, former contributors of which include the late Nobel Prize laureate Czeslaw Milosz and Pope John Paul II.

The initial letter called on the attorney general "to take action, as well as statutory initiatives, which will finally put an end to the sense of total impunity, or even actual consent on the part of state institutions to the fact that racial and religious hatred, slander and libellous language are used on the Polish internet."

In a reply published on the attorney general's official web site, Seremet has pledged to release guidelines regarding hate speech on the net, but he argued that the weekly is “wrong in thinking that the internet is terra incognita, and that no one is interested in chasing crimes committed there that are motivated by racial, ethnic or religious hatred."

The attorney general pointed out that as regards cases from the year 2011, of the 323 relating to hate speech on the internet, only two were discontinued.

Seremet noted that under certain circumstances, it is possible to prosecute not only the authors of outbursts of hate speech, but also the content managers or owners of web sites.

Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, Radoslaw Sikorski, has himself brought cases against Polish media outlets (Wprost, Fakt and Puls Biznesu), after internet users uploaded anti-semitic comments beneath articles, some attacking he and his American-born wife, the journalist and writer Anne Applebaum.

One case, involving weekly Wprost, was settled this March with the publication accepting responsibility for the comments and apologizing to Sikorski.

However, in a separate instance this May, the Warsaw District Prosecutor's Office called off an investigation, stating that there was not sufficient public interest in the case.

Spokesman for the Prosecutor's Office Dariusz Slepokura argued that Sikorski could initiate a private lawsuit.

After an appeal, the suspension of the case is now being reviewed by a Warsaw regional court (Warszawa-Srodmiescie). (nh)

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