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Hungary constitutional court strikes down hate speech amendments

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Hungary [official website] Monday ruled that two proposals passed by the country's parliament to criminalize hate speech were unconstitutional infringements on the freedom of expression. The court held that the extremist speech that the amendments sought to prevent was not a danger to society because it was already marginalized. The first bill, passed last year, would have allowed recovery in cases where a person's ethnic group - rather than the individual person - was insulted. The second bill, passed in February [Politics.hu report], would have designated national, ethnic, racial, or religious insults as misdemeanors punishable by up to two years in prison. In March, Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom [official website] requested that the Constitutional Court rule on the constitutionality of the two amendments before they took effect. AFP has more.

Balancing free speech interests with anti-hate efforts has also been a difficult task for other European governments in recent years. In 2006, British politicians, writers and comedians urged members of the UK House of Commons [official website] to accept freedom of speech revisions in the controversial Racial and Religious Hatred Bill [text; BBC Q/A]. The bill was amended [official amendments; JURIST report] in the British House of Lords [official website] in 2005 when peers voted to restrict punishable actions to "threatening words or behavior" rather than including words which may be insulting or abusive, which critics said would unfairly infringe upon comedians [JURIST report] and writers who satirize religion.

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