I think we in the U.S. sometimes take our freedoms too much for granted. Our Supreme Court has ruled consistently that even unpopular opinions are protected by the First Amendment. After all, what meaning would free speech have if it only protected popular opinions?
But what I don’t understand is the standard of free speech used in other countries. I remember hearing a couple of years ago that an American was arrested in Sweden for making a nazi salute during a concert. He faced 90 days in jail IIRC. Also interesting is this article from Wikipedia I found on the web:
Exactly what standards do they use in other countries? I know in the United States you can basically say anything that doesn’t create a clear and present danger according the the U.S. Supreme Court. But what principle do they use in other countries? And if there is no one principle used the world over, then I guess my question is what principles do they use in Sweden and Austria?
I´m no expert in the area, but over here you can say whatever you like as long as you´re not doing an apology for crime or inciting violence; also you can also be prosecuted for slander, if you say something aggravating the honour or image of someone that person has the right to drag you into court and demand a retraction or a compensation (as long as what you said wasn´t true, of course).
This is the relevant right in the German constitution (Basic Law):
However note that the Constitutional Court ruled that holocaust denial as a demonstrably false statement of fact isn’t protected by the freedom of opinion anyway.
I had prepared a post that contained the paragraphs on nazi propaganda from the Criminal Code but it was a bit too long. If you are interested, I can post those. Basically, many forms of promoting organizations that have been found to endanger the “democratic rule of law” are prohibited. The same applies to inciting hatred against segments of the population and attacks on human dignity.
I don’t know about Sweden or Austria, but I’ll throw in Norway. The consitution guarantees freedom of expression, and the penal code (PDF, in English) gives the exceptions. When I started looking, I found lots of these, such as:
Defamation, §246 onwards.
Various “misdemeanors against public morals”, §376. (A couple who had sex on stage during a public concert where minors were present last summer were fined 50000 Norwegian kroner (6200 Euro).)
Various laws against spreading false information which leads to serious harm, like §158 about causing famine.
Incitement to riot, §135, which looked insanely all-compassing until I re-read it and noticed that “endanger general peace” is a neccessary qualification for trigging the law. It certainly doesn’t hinder public insults against public authorities, or most of our comedians and a lot of our comic writers would be in jail
The blasphemy paragraph, §142, which hasn’t been used since 1933, when the poet Arnulf Øverland was charged and aquitted. The last time someone was sentenced for blasphemy was in 1912. (Arnfred Olsen was fined for insulting Christianity in a humanist magazine.)
And the so-called “racism paragraph”, §135a: