Freedom of speech and religion

Freedom of speech

Freedom of expression is the right to freely express one’s thoughts and disseminate information on these thoughts and, in a broader context, it is also press freedom and freedom of expression. Freedom of speech belongs to generally accepted and basic human rights, includes any form and manner of expression and is closely related to the right to receive information.

Freedom of speech and the right to the freedom of information can be restricted in the interests of national security and for the protection of the fundamental rights of other persons and general interests of the society. This covers state secrets, business secrets and impartiality of trials. Also, dissemination of false information and defamation and violation of honour and dignity of other persons, humiliation and insult are prohibited. A state has the right to establish a procedure for licensing broadcast and media companies.

Complaints about false information disseminated in press or interference in private life can be submitted to the Council of Public Word, court or the Estonian Press Council, which is an extrajudicial body established by the Estonian Newspaper Association for resolving complaints based on the good press practice and press ethics code. Besides newspapers, the Estonian Press Council also brings together the Estonian National Broadcasting, private TV channels (TV 3, Kanal 2) and Delfi.

Complaints regarding advertising can be submitted to the Advertising Council, which operates at the Consumer Protection Board. The Council of Public Word is an independent centre for analysis, where the complaints submitted against public media are discussed and attention is drawn to problems of media ethics. Freedom of speech and the right to information is protected in Estonia by Sections 44-46 of the Constitution and Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights.

Freedom of religion

Both individuals and organisations have freedom of religion and belief and the state has an obligation to ensure individual and collective freedom of religion. Discrimination and incitement of hatred on the basis of beliefs or religion is prohibited.

A state has the right to restrict the declaration of beliefs by the laws if it is detrimental to the public order, health or public morality. One cannot rely on a belief to correct the violation of law. The state cannot make a person disclose information about their religious or other beliefs, and the authorities are not allowed to collect such data against the person’s will. Freedom of religion and belief is protected in Estonia by Section 40 and 41 of the Constitution. The Constitution also states that there is no state church in Estonia.

Last amended: 03-05-2017 00:00 | Compiled by: Estonian Instutite of Human Rights