Target: Greek Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou
Goal: Punish racist and xenophobic attacks in Greece, not simply hateful speech
In an attempt to curb xenophobic and racist violence affecting migrants and asylum seekers in Greece, Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou is to introduce an anti-racism bill. Victims of the racist attacks in question have been beaten, stabbed and chased down the street.
The bill’s introduction comes after an attack from a far right anti-immigrant group named Golden Dawn. The party is responsible for the death of 34-year-old fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas. The murderer is suspected to be a member of the party, who is led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos. Five members of parliament, who are also part of the Golden Dawn have been charged with making and participating in a criminal organization that is linked with the fatal stabbing of Fyssas and other violent attacks on migrants. Unfortunately the members of Golden Dawn deny that they had anything to do with these activities and they are granted immunity because they are a part of parliament.
A full copy of the bill has not been released, but a draft constructed by a previous justice includes provisions to protect families and victims from being deported when there is a police investigation. However, a section of the draft includes strict punishments for those who spew hate speech, including genocide denial, and if abused, the justices could ban groups based on their opinions. This section of the draft is concerning because it could restrict freedom of speech and allow authorities and officials to abuse this law. Instead, Justice Athanassiou needs to focus on the xenophobic and racist attacks, instead of the hate speech.
While heavily looked down upon, hate speech does not physically harm someone, while stabbing or a gun shot does. Greece’s anti-racism bill needs to focus on this aspect to curb the violence affecting their migrant citizens. Sign this petition and lend your support.
Dear Justice Minister Haralambos Athanassiou,
While I support your anti-racism bill, I have to express my disagreement with one section of the bill and that is the criminal offense of spewing hate speech. While it is true that hate speech can incite aggression and violence, it is not in itself violent. It does stab, beat down, or physically harm a person, it is merely words. Therefore to include such things as a criminal offense in your bill does not make sense and does nothing to punish the violent act. Instead you should not impose a fee if a victim wishes to file a complaint, nor should they be threatened with deportation as this makes the crimes go unnoticed by the authorities.
I understand that your intentions are well meaning, but criminalizing hate speech raises a concern about free speech. There are definitely other ways for your country to protect your migrant people. I hope that you will take my words into consideration when drafting the new bill.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Dawn V Storm via flickr