Hate speech is not free speech, says Secretary General ahead of Human Rights Day

Speaking ahead of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has warned that hate speech and free speech should not be confused. 

“We look back at what has been achieved and we think of the many people who have endured hardship and given their lives in the struggle for human rights - we should never take these rights and freedoms for granted, and we should never abuse them.

“Hate speech is an abuse of freedom of expression. 

“We are free to express ourselves, even to the extent that our opinion may offend, shock or disturb others. But not everything is acceptable as free speech.The moment people start publicly inciting to violence, hostility or discrimination against a group of persons, then this is hate speech not free speech.

“From shouting at someone in the street to posting offensive comments online – hate speech can take many forms.

“Respecting human dignity is especially challenging in cyberspace where borders and borderlines are less apparent. We must draw the line when hate begins. 

“Join the Action Day for Human Rights Online on 10 December. Say NO to hate speech,” he said.

Secretary General Strasbourg 9 December 2016
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Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on 10 December. It commemorates the day in 1948 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.