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Hate speech: understanding the phenomenon from different perspectives

On April 28th, 2020 the EPIC project hosted the first of a series of webinars on migration narratives. Moderated by Ron Salaj, 70 participants benefited from the insights and lessons of Menno Ettema, staff at the Council of Europe - Anti-Discrimination Department; and Dariusz Grzemny, Youth Worker and Human Rights Educator involved in many initiatives with youth in Poland. Together, they discussed about hate speech from different perspectives and how to take action against it.

The webinar was started by Menno Ettema, who gave a very comprehensive definition of hate speech, because "to address a problem is to have a clear understanding of what we are looking for". He then continued by summarising the different legislations we could look at, with particular attention to the considerations regarding permissible and impermissible speech done by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR); and stated that it's crucial to understand if somebody is "crossing the red line" from freedom of expression to hate speech.

Both experts Menno Ettema and Dariusz Grzemny acknowledged the necessity of involving all actors to make society more resilient and capable of pushing back against hate speech: people are sometimes reluctant to report hate speech and actions of discrimination not only because of fear, but also because they lack full understanding of their rights. Very often, in fact, they do not know where to go and where to get support, which can become highly demotivating and thus result in dropping out reporting it or getting support.

In this context, Grzemny explained how young people nowadays experience different forms of hate speech, not only online but also offline, which happen most of the time in schools. ‘At some point, either they do not care about it anymore or are not able to recognize it, and therefore ignore the problem as such, as if it were something normal’ said Grzemny. 

While all panellists highlighted there is no magic formula to solve the problem at once, they reported some recommendations coming from their research and experience in implementing anti-hate speech projects. Part of the success, they stated, lies in developing a holistic human rights-based and inclusive plan, where all actors have clear interventions and receive first support to carry out their part. While such plan needs to be tailored to each reality, Grzemny concluded the webinar by outlining general ways to involve different actors in the community in preventing and acting against hate speech.

The full document of the webinar report is available HERE; to be informed about the upcoming activities of the EPIC project, follow it on its Facebook, Twitter and Instagram profiles.

EPIC - European Platform for Integrating Cities is an EU project funded by AMIF which involves partners from 7 NGOs and 6 LAs, with ALDA as the lead partner. It addresses the challenges of the integration of migrants by targeting medium-sized cities that have the need to develop expertise in areas such as housing, labour integration, integration policy or counter-narratives, and at the same time want to lend their expertise to support their counterparts in other LAs.


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