Freedom of Expression and Religious Sensitivities in Pluralist Societies: Facing the Challenge of Extreme Speech
25 Pages Posted: 18 Apr 2012
Date Written: April 17, 2012
Within the European Convention system, judgments have supported legal restrictions on hate speech, but also on blasphemy or religious defamation. The universal human rights instruments, particularly the ICCPR, are increasingly geared towards eradicating hate speech (speech that threatens the rights and freedoms of others), whilst forms of extreme speech that fall short of that category are to be protected rather than countered by states. The Human Rights Committee’s recently adopted General Comment (No. 34) on freedom of expression, provides another strong indication that this is the envisaged way forward: repealing blasphemy and defamation bills, whilst simultaneously increasing the efforts to combat hate speech. This paper argues that it remains ever so important to continue taking stock of the legal justifications for restrictions that are suggested in this area and to scrutinize whether they are in fact sustainable from a human rights perspective –– not only on paper, but also in actual practice. The paper compares and contrasts the universal monitoring bodies’ approach to extreme speech with that of regional monitoring bodies, notably the European Court of Human Rights.
Keywords: Extreme speech, hate speech, religious hate speech, religious defamation, European Court of Human Rights, Human Rights Committee, General Comment No. 34, General Comment 34, freedom of speech, freedom of expression
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