Hate speech is on the rise across Europe, jeopardising social cohesion and creating polarisation. Consequently, hate speech contributes to a breeding ground for radicalisation leading to violent extremism. In the Western Balkans, hate speech particularly targets members of vulnerable groups (LGBTQ, refugees, Roma, women). However, it also fuels the old tensions between the different ethnic and religious groups in the region. Across the region, hate narratives feed polarizations, perpetuate political turmoil and inflame animosities, as found by the Mirovni Institute. During the COVID-19 epidemic, this became very problematic and manifested itself predominantly online. Most troubling is that these hate narratives have now been normalised to a very significant extent. Rather than being consistently condemned by politicians or public figures, they are often instrumentalised for political campaigns and increasingly seen as a regular part of public discussion.
Still, across the region, there is a reluctance within the judiciary to process discriminatory and hate speech and to consider the hate towards particular social groups as an exacerbating factor in criminal offences.
While governments can use their regulatory powers with respect to the media (including internet providers, online intermediaries and social media partners), to promote action to combat the use of hate speech and to challenge its acceptability, it is especially challenging to ensure that such action does not violate the right to freedom of expression and opinion. A balance must be kept between fighting hate speech on the one hand, and safeguarding freedom of speech on the other. Especially with the rise of authoritarian regimes across the world, any restrictions on hate speech should not be misused to silence minorities and to suppress criticism of official policies, political opposition or religious beliefs.
The objective of the workshop is to highlight key challenges, insights and lessons learned related to engagement in hate speech in the Western Balkans. By bringing together practitioners from regional media institutes and civil society whose work has a specific focus on hate speech, extremist propaganda and disinformation, the aim of the event is to identify concrete needs for raising awareness about hate speech. In doing so, participants will discuss the following guiding questions.
- Why is hate speech a problem and what is the impact of hate speech in the Western Balkans?
- Who are the perpetrators? On what platforms does this take place?
- How can we either prevent and/or combat hate speech?
- Which organisations/persons are best placed to deal with hate speech? What are the judicial options?
- What are the main challenges? How can we overcome the challenges? What is needed?
- What resources are available to practitioners (civic front)?
Target audience / participants
Practitioner experts from media institutes and civil society whose work has a specific focus on hate speech, propaganda and disinformation.
Since participation is limited for this event, we kindly ask you to fill out this questionnaire. Based on the answers we receive, we will inform you of your participation by 9 October 2022.
- Publication date
- 30 September 2022
- Directorate-General for Migration and Home Affairs