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Six months for inciting hatred against Cécile Djunga on social media

20:18 14/04/2021

A Brussels court handed down a six-month prison sentence and a €1,600 fine to a man for incitement to racial hatred based on threatening comments made on social media. The man made the statements about TV host and  RTBF weather reporter Cécile Djunga (pictured).

A video posted to Facebook in 2018 shows an emotional Djunga talking about the racist abuse she was getting regularly since appearing on RTBF. A man commented on the post with a tirade against Djunga’s African origins, ending with: “Si vous deviez subir une agression, espérons-la mortelle. Je ne dénoncerai pas l’agresseur, je le féliciterai bien bas” (“If you were ever to be assaulted, I hope it is fatal. And I would not denounce the aggressor but deeply congratulate him”).

Belgium’s Computer Crime Unit was able to identify the man, who is from Mons. The public prosecutor argued that the statements were discrimination and an incitement to hatred and violence, and the court agreed.

The man told the court that his statements fell under the right to freedom of speech and that he would not stop stating such opinions on social media – in fact, he would be all the more virulent, he said. Freedom of expression, replied the court, “is not absolute and cannot be used as a screen for racist, hateful, discriminating remarks in our multicultural society”.

The man – who will only serve 15 days of his sentence in prison, with the rest suspended – must also pay €500 in damages to Djunga. “I am glad that the courts are taking cyber harassment seriously,” Djunga said after the judgement.

 

Written by Lisa Bradshaw