Zhirinovsky proposes end to hate speech law

MOSCOW (JTA) – A prominent Russian legislator and former presidential candidate introduced legislation to strike down Russia’s hate speech law.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the parliamentary vice-speaker and outspoken leader of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, made the proposal Wednesday about Article 282 of the Russian Criminal Code, which is the center of nearly all prosecutions in Russia for anti-Semitic hate speech. It prohibits public incitement of ethnic or religious hatred.

In a memo attached to the proposal, Zhirinovsky pointed out that a broad interpretation of the law could be used to prosecute journalists for identifying the race of criminals in news stories or anyone for telling ethnic jokes.

"Who can say whether it is a crime to tell ethnic joke that are inciting hatred or hostility to Natives, Jews, Gypsies or Russians," the memo argues.

Zhirinovsky goes on to argue that the law should not be defined by the speaker’s actions or words but by their goal.

Human rights activists also have similar concerns about the law, fearing that such anti-extremist measures could be used to crack down on dissidents and restrict free speech in general, according to a report from the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.

Zhirinovsky’s proposal, though, seeks to abolish the hate speech language in the law rather than amend it.

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