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Taking the Bait? Lessons from a Hate Speech Prosecution

  • Heli Askola (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This article uses one case study to explore the use of criminal hate speech provisions against populist politicians. In a high-profile Finnish case, a populist politician was found guilty of hate speech after a four-year criminal process. Though the prosecution was ultimately successful, the various problems with the case helped boost the political popularity of the accused who was turned into a well-known public figure and member of Parliament. The case might thus be seen to warn against tackling populist politicians by means of criminal law. However, further analysis of the political context and a comparison with the Dutch prosecution against anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders complicate this conclusion. This article examines the consequences of hate speech prosecutions of politicians and sheds light on the conditions under which they can achieve (some of) their aims. The case also has lessons for other jurisdictions about when hate speech prosecutions of politicians are likely to be successful in terms of countering prejudice and disempowering those who spread it for electoral purposes.

Résumé

À l'aide d'une étude de cas, cet article explore l'utilisation des dispositions pénales sur les discours haineux contre les politiciens populistes. Dans une affaire finlandaise très médiatisée, un politicien populiste a été reconnu coupable d'incitation à la haine, suite à un procès criminel d’une durée de quatre ans. Bien que l'accusation ait été couronnée de succès, les divers problèmes liés à cette affaire ont contribué à accroître la popularité de l'accusé et ont fait en sorte de le transformer en un personnage public et un membre du Parlement bien connu. Cette affaire pourrait donc être perçue comme une mise en garde contre le danger d'utiliser le droit pénal contre les politiciens populistes. Cependant, une analyse approfondie du contexte politique ainsi qu’une comparaison avec la poursuite néerlandaise de Geert Wilders, un politicien anti-immigration, remettent en cause cette conclusion. Cet article examine les conséquences des poursuites pénales relatives aux messages haineux contre les politiciens et met en lumière les conditions selon lesquelles elles peuvent atteindre (quelques-uns de) leurs objectifs. Cette affaire offre également des leçons aux autres juridictions relativement aux circonstances selon lesquelles les poursuites de politiciens ont des chances de réussir, notamment lorsqu’il s’agit de contrer les préjugés et de retirer l’autorité à ceux qui en font la propagande à des fins électorales.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

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Canadian Journal of Law and Society / La Revue Canadienne Droit et Société
  • ISSN: 0829-3201
  • EISSN: 1911-0227
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-law-and-society-la-revue-canadienne-droit-et-societe
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