Last year, we touched a couple of times on the question of freedom of speech and the rise of extremist political groups in the EU. We wanted to continue the debate today, and during our interview with Juan Fernando López Aguilar – an MEP with the Social Democrats – we passed on a couple more of your comments to get his response.
We were keen to ask López Aguilar for his reaction not only because he is Chair of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in the European Parliament, but also because, in a speech earlier this year, he called for tough new laws banning “hate speech” in the EU:
Intolerance is sweeping across Europe and is manifested not only by extremist parties, but also through prejudice and stigma, which are increasingly common in government parties in the Member States of the European Union…
Therefore, we must respond not only politically, but with European legislation, reforming the framework decision of 2008 and, based on the values of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, introduce legislation to strengthen the protection of victims and establish a new legal framework with criminal laws and penalties to combat not only the politics of hate, but also hate speech as well.
It should be pointed out, of course, that the European Parliament does not have the power to unilaterally ban hate speech in Europe. Rather, MEPs can (as they have quite recently) call on national governments to strengthen their approach.
With that understood, what did our commenters have to say? Well, many of them were highly critical of the idea. Sunny, for example, believes that banning hate speech would be a serious infringement of freedom of speech. Is this something López Aguilar has considered?
What about the comment from Ed, arguing that denying media exposure to extremist parties will only cause their support to grow. Ed thinks that the best way to combat the rise of extremism is to openly debate and challenge their ideas in public. Would López Aguilar agree?