“The Brussels Diary with Yana Toom”: Hate Speech and Punishment


The other day Martin Helme, our Minister of Finance and leader of the EKRE party, said on the radio that Estonia received unpleasant news. An investigation was initiated against us because we are not strict enough in relation to hate speak.

Helme chirped: you know, this is censoring! So one cannot say anything against immigrants, gays, anybody else? But who those “anybody else” are is clear – local Russians. In the end, Helme promised to stand for freedom of speech: “There will be no compromise. Let them fine and do what they want to do. At some point the question will arise as to whether we want to remain in an EU in which we do not have freedom and independence, where we are not left in peace?” End of citation.

True enough: if it were decided in a country that incitement of hatred is freedom of speech, Brussels would not leave such a country in peace. The EU was established to prevent war in Europe; however, the last war was initiated by those who purely believed in their freedom to fuel the fire of hatred. As a matter of fact, they started with hate speech against the Jews, leftists and gays, and this led them to what we all know about.

In Estonia, hate speech is permitted. Let us remember some eloquent examples from our orators. Mart Helme – Martin's father – equated the Russians in Estonia with the cancer of the Kremlin. Urmas Reitelmann, who was also in the EKRE party back then, wrote about “300 000 parasitic morons” – meaning local Russians – and “human trash, cockroaches” – these are refugees. There are so many examples but even these are more than enough.

Neither Helme nor Reitelmann were made accountable. We do have section 151; however, punishment pursuant to this section is possible only if such an act results in danger to the life, health or property of an individual or in damage to health. You will not get sick and die if you are said to be a cancer on news media. Even if all the walls were covered with “kick out the morons, save Estonia”, the link between this call and actual beatings could not be proven.

The EU wants to end this mess. What is Martin Helme actually afraid of? What would happen if his parents and Urmas Reitelmann happened to be German or French? I will tell you. In Germany, an insult diminishing the dignity of a group of people is punishable with a large fine and up to five years in prison. In 2016, Lutz Bachmann from the far-right movement Pegida was fined almost 10,000 euros for calling refugees “cattle”, “scum” and “trash” on social media. Allow me to say – the spitting image of Reitelmann.

The same goes for France. A fine up to 45,000 and up to a year in prison for public calls to discrimination and defamation and two times less for an insult. The film star Bridget Bardot was also tried for the publication of a letter in newspaper saying that France “has been taken over by aliens, especially Muslims” and for comments; initially the fine was 4,500, then 5,000 and then 15,000 euros.

So, if you insult people, if you incite hatred, if you want the pleasure of earning pre-election points from people like you – pay. Hence, those who wish to discuss “morons-parasites” will be fewer. And this, by the way, is not called “censorship” but “civilisation”.

Europe does not like hate – and I think that this is right.