A Zagreb court has delivered a six months’ prison sentence with one year’s probation for hate speech on social media against a young man who said he was sorry the consequences of a tear gas attack in a Zagreb club in 2017 had not been worse, the Zagreb Pride NGO said on Friday.

Hate speech against the LGBTIQ community and Zagreb Pride has been punished in Zagreb, with the important explanation by the court that incitement to hate based on sexual orientation could result in the creation or intensification of intolerance towards the LGBTIQ community as well as in the incitement to hate as well as mental and physical violence, the NGO said.

Zagreb Pride recalled that last year it reported a young man for posting on its Facebook profile that he was sorry the tear gas attack during a queer party at the Super Super club had not been worse and “that you didn’t get yours, without exception.”

He was sentenced for publicly inciting to violence and hate against a group of people based on their sexual orientation, thus committing a crime against public order, Zagreb Pride said.

“The court found that such statements represent a level of communication below any dignity and common sense,” it added.

Hate speech and crimes against LGBTIQ persons on the rise

Zagreb Pride said hate speech and crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer people was markedly on the rise in recent years, as evident on social media and in article commenting.

The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association report on LGBTIQ rights in Europe in 2020 emphasises the widespread homophobic and transphobic hate speech on social media, notably in Central and East Europe, including Croatia, the NGO said.

“At the same time it warns that individuals are not the only ones responsible, but the authorities and persons in positions of power too who use the LGBTI community as a scapegoat,” it added.

The deterioration of the situation in Croatia is reflected in a series of homophobic attacks on gays in Zagreb parks, notably the brutal setting on fire of a gay man in December, Zagreb Pride said.

“The rise in violence is always preceded by a rise in intolerance and hate speech in the public sphere,” it said, adding that although they were satisfied with the latest sentence, it was only a drop in the sea of hate spreading against the LGBTIQ community on social media and in public.

“We call on and encourage all LGBTIQ people to report cases of violence, discrimination and hate speech,” Zagreb Pride said.