The constitution and law provide for freedom of expression, including for the press, and the government generally respected these rights. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for the press.
Freedom of Expression: Holocaust denial, defamation, sexist remarks and attitudes that target a specific individual, and incitement to hatred are criminal offenses punishable by a minimum of eight days (for Holocaust denial) or one month (incitement to hatred and sexist remarks/attitudes) and up to one year in prison and fines, plus a possible revocation of the right to vote or run for public office. If the incitement to hatred was based on racism or xenophobia, the case would be tried in the regular courts. If, however, the incitement stemmed from other motives, including homophobia or religious bias, a longer and more costly trial by jury generally would be required. The government prosecuted and courts convicted persons under these laws.
In January an appellate court upheld the 2015 Liege court sentencing of French stand-up comedian Dieudonne to two months of prison and a 9,000 euro ($10,800) fine for incitement to hatred, anti-Semitic and discriminatory statements, and Holocaust denial. Dieudonne made the statements during a 2012 one-man show he held in Liege.
In September an appellate court sentenced former federal representative Laurent Louis to a six-month suspended prison sentence and an 18,000 euro ($21,600) fine for Holocaust denial statements he made on his blog in 2014. Louis was also sentenced to visit one concentration camp each year for the next five years and write up a summary of the visit on his blog. Louis was first sentenced in 2015.
Press and Media Freedom: The prohibition of Holocaust denial, defamation, sexist remarks and attitudes that target a specific individual, and incitement to hatred apply to the print and broadcast media, the publication of books, and online newspapers and journals.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
According to estimates compiled by the International Telecommunication Union, approximately 86 percent of the population used the internet in 2016.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.