ICE blogs

April 1, 2012

Role of the web in promoting hate

Dusan Babic, a Sarajevo-based media researcher and analyst, reports on a major conference tackling hate-speech in South Eastern Europe

The role of the internet in promoting hate speech in South Eastern Europe was the subject of a conference in Sarajevo in November 2011. The event was jointly organised by the Council of Europe, the Press Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina, a self-regulatory body for print and online media, and the Association of B-H Journalists (BH Novinari).

The conference, titled Living Together, was an outcome of a Council of Europe project launched in 2009, and produced a handbook on standards on the media’s contribution to social cohesion, intercultural dialogue, understanding, tolerance and democratic participation.

Although the conference covered a wide range of issues - such as the European legal framework, national regulation and practice and the role of self-regulation in combating hate speech - the prevailing opinion among the conference participants was that the internet was to blame for spreading hate speech.

In 2010, I conducted a survey and analysis of the most-popular web portals in three central states of the former Yugoslavia - Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina - commissioned by Sarajevo-based Media Plan Institute. I concluded that there were glaring examples of hate speech (largely a legacy of the wars of the 1990s) but they had not yet become a ‘mass phenomenon’ (see The internet: Freedom without boundaries?, Media Plan Institute, Sarajevo, 2010).

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