Hate speech in the time of COVID-19 in Latvia

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The Latvian Centre for Human Rights (LCC) has been monitoring hate speech on the internet and reporting it to NGOs, and while pandemic-related hate speech in Latvia is lower than the global average, it's nonetheless visible, according to LCC Director Anhelita Kamenska.

The LCC points to “Chinese virus” and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories around the supposed creation of the COVID-19 virus as some of the hate speech tied specifically to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Globally hate speech has especially increased toward Chinese and people of Asian descent, for example, such hashtags as #communistvirus have appeared. There are also countries where people are turning against minority groups,” said Kamenska. 

Some people assume that specific minorities don't follow hygiene standards, use narcotics and therefore spread the virus, according to the Director. The LCC has a hate crime incident report form available on their website. According to Latvian law, incitement to hatred is an offence punishable with a prison term of up to three years.

As previously reported, Defense Minister Artis Pabriks (Development/For) also urged people to carefully evaluate information regarding the coronavirus pandemic. State Police representative Simona Grāvīte confirmed that authorities are monitoring the situation to minimize the spread of fake news. Each situation is individually evaluated, but those spreading false claims could be charged with hooliganism or disturbance of public order. If you notice such harmful fake news write to [email protected].

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