MPs on Thursday rejected calls by right-wing populist party VNL to widen the laws on freedom of expression. The VNL wants to scrap two clauses from the current law, one on group insult and the other on inciting hatred and discrimination.
While the VVD accepts that the definition could be widened in principle, the CDA says any changes will make it easier to deny the Holocaust took place, news agency ANP said.
‘[The concept of] group insult was included in the law in the 1930s to protect Jews,’ CDA leader Sybrand Buma said. ‘The law understood that insult was the first step towards generating unease and possible violence.’
‘Removing the incitement to hatred and discrimination from the statute books would be a historic error,’ Buma said during Thursday’s debate. He, by contrast, wants to see the maximum prison sentence for incitement to hatred doubled to two years.
D66 leader Alexander Pechtold agreed with the need to keep the legislation as it is. ‘Painting swastikas on walls, waving IS flags, handing out anti-gay leaflets, imams calling gay people cockroaches, anti-semitic chanting at football grounds – these would all become legal,’ he said. ‘I do not want to go down that road, ever.’
The current law states: ‘He who in public, either verbally or in writing or image, incites hatred or discrimination against people or incites acts of violence towards people or property of people because of their race, their religion or beliefs…shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding one year or a fine of the third category.’
VVD parliamentarian Joost Taverne told the debate that other laws could be used to combat Holocaust denial, currently tackled under the law on group insult. However, the VVD stopped short of calling for a ban on inciting hatred and discrimination.
The anti-immigration PVV, whose leader Geert Wilders has just been found guilty of inciting discrimination, does backchanging the law. ‘There is no freedom without freedom of speech,’ said MP Martin Bosma. ‘That is a crucial part of democracy. There is a right to tread on people’s toes.’
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