Finnish Police Will Question Blogger Under 'Incitement Against Groups' Law

May 3rd, 2007 5:56 PM

 Over the past few days, Gates of Vienna discussed a very troubling story about Finnish blogger Mikko Ellila, “who has been summoned by the police for a hearing next week, all because of the content of his blog posts.” Mikko posts in Finnish but contacted several people in English about this, such as the Australian blogger Prodos, who owns the site that hosts the potentially criminal blog.  Mikko explained to Prodos why he is going to be questioned by Finnish police:

According to the letter, I am suspected of “hate speech” merely
 because I have pointed out that Islam is a fascist ideology that
 advocates killing Jews, atheists, homosexuals etc.

 Fellow Finnish blogger Vasarahammer explained more about Mikko's problem:

 Finnish penal code contains a law that criminalizes incitement against a group of people. Here’s an inadequate translation of that law (Criminal code section 11 paragraph 8) (sic)

Whoever publicly distributes statements or other information that threatens or abuses some national, racial, ethnic or religious group or group of people that can be regarded as such, shall be sentenced for incitement against a group of people to pay a fine or imprisoned with maximum penalty of two years.

According to Varashammer, this law is very vague and leaves a lot of room for creative interpretation" and has been used before:

When the organization called Suomen Sisu published the Mohammad cartoons on their website, a police investigation was conducted based on the above-mentioned law. However, the case never went to court, since the public prosecutor decided against pursuing the case.

Prodos posted an email from Mikko warning him that the Finnish police might an email “politely" requesting that he delete the blog. Mikko wrote, “Don’t do this if you value freedom." Mikko further explained why this incident is significant:

This is a very important symbolic case, the first of its kind in
 Finland. Noone has ever been interrogated before in this country for
 blog posts criticising Islam.
Probably thousands of people will be
 following this case already before I will visit the police station
 for the interrogation next Monday, because I have told about the
 ongoing police investigation to several other bloggers whose pages
 get thousands of visitors per day. (emphasis mine)

Hate speech laws start out with something that most agree with. Then it eventually expands to include speech that people do not think is hate speech and the law is often applied unequally.  Whether Mikko really did write something that insulted a group of people or even one person shouldn’t be the business of the government, within strict limited exceptions.  

The media is not reporting this story, both here and, from what I can read, in Europe as well. Although Mikko is in Europe and less likely to be noticed, the American media did cover the censorship-lite incident surrounding American blogger Spocko.” I haven’t read any protests from the liberal free speech crowd either, unless they are in Finnish. Hopefully, that will change if this story is covered more.

Lynn Davidson can be reached at tvisgoodforyou2 AT (replace “AT” with “@”)