Published: 9 Dec 2016 | By Marina Agaltsova
“Hate Speech” in Russia
The fight against hate speech, like any other fight, should be carried out according to clear rules. The lack of clarity around the rules of the fight in Russia, however, is a major cause for concern. This article will address several definitions used in Russian legislation on hate speech, which lead to chaotic and arbitrary prosecutions.
Several articles in the Russian Criminal Code deal with hate speech, in particular Articles 280 (incitement to extremist activities) and 282 (incitement of hatred). According to the Sova Center of Information and Analysis (a Russian NGO that scrutinises implementation of antiextremism legislation), Article 282 is used in the overwhelming majority of cases. For instance, in 2015 almost 130 individuals were convicted exclusively under this Article while only seven people were convicted exclusively under Article 280; eleven were convicted under the combination of both. Since Article 282 is used in the majority of cases, it will be the exclusive focus of this piece in order to demonstrate the ambiguity of Russian legislation with regard to hate speech.
Article 282 envisages a punishment of up to five years’ imprisonment for incitement of hatred and enmity, as well as humiliation of a person or a group on the basis of gender, race, nationality, language, origin, religion, or because a person belongs to a social group. This incitement shall be done publicly or through mass media. Vague terms in the Article, such as “incitement”, “social group” and “publicly”, lead to arbitrary prosecution.