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Where is the limit of hate speech?

Freedom of speech is a fundamental right of a democratic society. It enables individuals to form their points of view freely and, thus, their identities. But even this fundamental right is not absolute. It may be restricted to protect public safety and prevent disorder or criminal acts, including hate speech. This last represents hatred, violence, or intolerance against a particular group of people, distinguished from the rest by unique characteristics.

It confronts, on the one hand, the right of the individual to express their views and, on the other hand, the right to dignity of those whom the individual verbally attacks. Where is the limit of acceptable criticism, or when does insulting a group become a big dilemma in modern society? "Freedom of speech must be limited under criminal law when an individual calls for violence against members of a specific group, and not when members of a certain group feel only personally hurt by the individual's speech. Feelings of discomfort or hurt are not protected by criminal law," explained professor Miha Šepec. He added that there is an ever-increasing prosecution of hate speech in society and more legal rules about what is allowed and what is not.

"On the one hand, this is good because, in this way, society will be more tolerant and less hostile. On the other hand, the ruling policy will silence political opponents and those who disagree with them because any criticism of those in power will constitute hate speech, which we have already witnessed in history," emphasized Šepec. He added that legislation in this area must be changed slowly and carefully in cooperation with legal experts. "However, I am afraid that the groups for changing the legislation regarding speech restriction consist of interest groups or political groups that just accept what they propose. This is completely inappropriate," said Šepec.