Spreading hoaxes can become a crime

The change is part of the amendment to the Penal Code presented by the justice minister.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Pixabay)

People spreading false information may ending up behind bars in the future.

This may become true if an amendment to the Penal Code presented by Justice Minister Mária Kolíková (SaS) becomes effective. The proposal is currently in the initial stages of the legislation process, as it has been submitted for interdepartmental review only.

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The ministry proposes that if passed by both the cabinet and the parliament, the new rules should come into force in June 2022.

Punishment with prison

The creation and spreading of false information that can “cause serious concern to at least part of the population,” threatens lives or influences the decision of inhabitants in regards to serious issues, may be punished by one to five years in prison.

If the perpetrator has a personal motive, like property benefit, the punishment is three to eight years in prison, and if a national emergency is declared, the punishment can be as high as four to 10 years in prison.

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Also the incitement of hatred, for example against a certain profession, will be a crime. This includes people who incite others to act against people for their job, profession, function or adherence to measures imposed to stop spreading contagious disease in a way that incites hatred, which can result in fearing for one's life or health, Kolíková said, as reported by SITA.

In this case, it will be possible to punish people who are inciting hatred with up to two years in prison, while in cases where a national emergency is declared the punishment can be three to eight years.

Personally motivated crimes will have a higher penalty rate in general.

Blaha’s videos erased

Hoaxes have been problem throughout the coronavirus pandemic, with many people spreading disinformation via social networks, including politicians.

There is often a problem tackling this issue, even though social networks intervene from time to time. Facebook is often criticised for its inadequate measures against hoaxes. Even though the network toughened up rules and banned the spreading of lies on vaccination, politicians can still publish various pieces of disinformation, the Denník N daily reported.

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Smer MP Ľuboš Blaha recently published a video where he wanted to debunk the “10 main hoaxes about vaccination.” In fact, he referenced several false statements. His party subsequently supported the spread of this disinformation through promotion on Facebook.

As a response, the social network removed the video, though it interfered after journalists became involved, according to Denník N.

Subsequently, YouTube removed another video where Blaha spread lies about vaccination. The video was an interview for online TV, operated by the publisher of the Zem a Vek (Earth and Age) conspiracy magazine, the daily wrote.

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