Defamation / Reputation, Hate Speech, Political Expression
Awan v. Levant
Closed Contracts Expression
Global Freedom of Expression is an academic initiative and therefore, we encourage you to share and republish excerpts of our content so long as they are not used for commercial purposes and you respect the following policy:
Attribution, copyright, and license information for media used by Global Freedom of Expression is available on our Credits page.
Aleksandr Byvshev, a teacher, wrote a poem titled “To Ukrainian Patriots.” He published the poem on Facebook and VKontakte, a Russian version of Facebook. The poem called for Ukrainian patriots to fight against Putin’s secret police and Russia. The poem was found to contain hate speech and classified as extremist, thus Aleksandr Byvshev was sentenced to 300 hours of correctional work and a two year ban on all teaching activities.
Aleksandr Byvshev, a teacher, wrote a poem titled “To Ukrainian Patriots.” On March 1, 2014, He published the poem on Facebook and VKontakte, a Russian version of Facebook. The poem spoke against Putin and the Kremlin by calling for Ukrainian patriots to fight against Putin’s secret police and Russia.
Rephrasing, the poem contained lines such as:
“Don’t give Crimea to Putin’s KGB agents”;
“Respond to the cunning Moscow band with in a Banderov fashion, let the invaders drown in their blood.”
In another line, the poem suggests that Ukrainians should feed the enemies lead kasha, thus suggesting the use of bullets.
The Ministry of the Interior of the Orlov Region received an anonymous complaint about the poem and initiated a criminal case against Byvshev under Criminal Code, art. 282, p. 1, prohibiting incitement of hatred and degradation of human dignity, punishable by a fine of RUB 200 thousand, or correctional work, or four years of imprisonment. The prosecutor also charged Byvshev with incitement of Ukrainian citizens to commit unlawful acts against Russian citizens.
The court did not rule on whether the poem caused ethnic violence or if anyone was harmed by it. Instead, the court focused solely on whether the poem contained hateful or extremist statements.
The government and Byvshev relied on experts who submitted opposing opinions on whether the poem contained hateful and extremist statements. The court sided with the prosecution’s expert, a professor at the Orlov Government Institute. The government expert concluded that the poem contained statements directly and indirectly inciting inter-ethnic hatred and calling for Ukrainian citizens to commit unlawful acts against Russian citizens.
The prosecution also submitted witness testimony from Byvshev’s students and colleagues, who claimed that he often criticized Russia, Putin, Medvedev, and argued for Ukrainian superiority over Russia. Further, the witnesses established that Byvshev’s heritage was Ukrainian, which he openly admitted. These factors served as the foundation for Byveshev’s prosecution.
The case has been accepted by ECtHR.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
The decision is from a court of first instance and can be appealed.
Let us know if you notice errors or if the case analysis needs revision.