Brussels, EU. An Italian member of the EU Parliament has found out the hard way that free speech in the EU is anything but free, as a statement he made about an Italian government official who is black, will now cost him his home.
An Italian member of the European Parliament was ordered by Brussels on Thursday to pay a 50,000 euros fine to a black Cabinet minister after he made racist remarks about her during a radio interview. The Italian court ordered Borghezio to pay Kyenge 50,000 euros ($56,000), in addition to a 1,000 euro ($1,120) fine.
Afterwards, Borghezio, who was suspended by his anti-immigration party for three months in an unrelated racial incident, said he could not afford the fine and will have to sell his house to pay it.
The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law”. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) prohibits all incitement of racism.
MEP Mario Borghezio of Italy’s Northern League party, made the remarks in a 2013 interview about Cecile Kyenge, then Italy’s integration minister and the first black person to serve in the nation’s Cabinet.
“Africans are Africans and belong to a very different ethnicity from ours,” Borghezio said. He also said Kyenge, who is an ophthalmologist born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, “took away a job from an Italian doctor” when she emigrated.
The Council of Europe has worked intensively on this issue.The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe went further and recommended in 1997 that member governments “take appropriate steps to combat hate speech” under its Recommendation. The court does not offer an accepted definition for “hate speech” but instead offers only parameters by which prosecutors can decide if the “hate speech” is entitled to the protection of freedom of speech.
The Council of Europe also created the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, which has produced country reports and several general policy recommendations, for instance against anti-Semitism and intolerance against Muslims.
In the European Union, such remarks about national origin are “hate speech” and subject to fines and in some cases a prison sentence.