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Censorship of pro-life ads was “discriminatory” - rules Slovenian equality body

Censorship of pro-life ads was “discriminatory” - rules Slovenian equality body

  • The Slovenian equality body found that a state-owned bus company discriminated against pro-life group by removing their advertisements
  • Messages including “You are not alone” had been deemed “intolerant” by local authorities

LUBLJANA (12 July 2022) – The censorship of pro-life bus advertisements amounts to discrimination – so found the Advocate of the Principle of Equality, the national Slovenian equality body. The pro-life NGO Zavod ŽIV!M, whose bus advertisements had been removed, welcomed the decision:

“Every life is valuable. We want to stand by women in crisis, especially those facing unplanned pregnancies or the loss of a child. Our bus ad was meant to show them that they are not alone. We are glad that the state equality body agreed that our ad should not have been removed. Whether you agree or disagree with the work of Zavod ŽIV!M, everyone should be able to agree that it is wrong for the state to simply censor messages with which it disagrees. We seek to offer hope and support to many in difficult situations,” said Darja Pečnik, the director of Zavod ŽIV!M.

The pro-life NGO had contracted a state-owned bus company, who had agreed to display their ads for a couple of months. However, the municipal authorities had deemed the messages “We love Life!”, “You are not alone”, “Step out of Silence” and “I mourn my child”, accompanied by pictures of a happy family, a grieving mother and a woman holding a pregnancy test to be “intolerant”. They subsequently instructed the bus company to remove them after just over one week.

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of every free and democratic society. These innocuous statements and pictures of a happy family, a grieving mother and a woman holding a pregnancy test should not have been censored. The state authority on equality has affirmed that removing the bus ad amounted to discrimination and infringed on Zavod ŽIV!M’s right to freedom of expression,” said Adina Portaru, Senior Counsel for ADF International, a human rights organisation supporting Zavod ŽIV!M.

Censoring of pro-life voices

In June 2021, the Administrative Court of the Republic of Slovenia had considered the same case, and found in favour of the municipality, deciding that the pro-life NGO had not been discriminated against. The government equality body corrected this decision today, explaining that the advertisements were not “intolerant”, and, on the contrary, should have been protected as part of the freedom of expression and freedom of belief upheld by the Slovenian Constitution. The opinion also noted that this censorship had been an unpredictable, arbitrary and reactionary response to a Twitter debate about the advertisements.

“Everyone should be able to share messages freely, without fear of censorship. We welcome the ruling of the Advocate for the Principle of Equality, which affirms the right to freedom of expression. In sharing their convictions, Zavod ŽIV!M were exercising this fundamental right. They believe that every life is valuable, and people sharing this message should not be discriminated against or censored,” said Tomaž Pisk, the lead lawyer representing Zavod ŽIV!M.

Censorship of pro-life messages is an increasing problem across Europe. In a similar case in the UK, another message of hope was taken down from buses by authorities in 2018. The posters advertised a planned Christan festival featuring pastor Franklin Graham. They carried only the title “A Time for Hope”, the date and location of the festival, with an invitation to book free tickets. Last year, a UK court ruled that the censorship of these ads was discriminatory. For more information, click here.

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