EU, CoE call Serbian media to refrain from hate speech

English 20.04.2021 16:59
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The European Union and Council of Europe (CoE) said in a joint report on Tuesay that the media in Serbia should refrain from hate speech and establish a system of self-regulation.

The media have powerful impact on Serbian society and a corresponding responsibility in addressing hate speech. Media representatives should not only refrain from using hate speech but also emphasize and promote positive and value-driven arguments about members of vulnerable groups, thus contributing to breaking predominant stereotypes and prejudices. The legal framework in place does not appear to be effective – it is necessary for the media community to establish a system of collective self-regulation based on agreed codes of conducts and mechanisms to deal with complaints of hate speech,” the Report on the Use of Hate Speech in the Serbian Media said.

The report said that Serbia needs a media environment that will enable a vivid and balanced public debate and citizens to receive impartial information on issues of public concern, adding that hate speech needs to be eradicated.

The report was drawn up under the joint EU/CoE Promotion of Diversity and Equality in Serbia project.

A press release quoted CoE Belgrade office head Tobias Flessenkemper as saying that the pandemic has given rise to a new wave of hate speech. “I am concerned about a further polarization of public discourse… COVID-19 related hate speech includes expressions of contempt against individuals and groups. Scapegoating, stereotyping, stigmatisation and the use of derogatory and sometimes violent language can be seen also in Serbia. It is targeted particularly against people and groups who are already marginalized: older persons, Roma, LGBTI people, ethnic minorities, migrants and foreigners.  Though hate speech is often spread by members of the general public, its consequences are exacerbated by inflammatory rhetoric of politicians and others in position of influence, including the media, he said.

It also quoted the deputy head of the EU Delegation in Serbia Mateja Norcic Stamcar who said that “hate speech is a universal problem and unified and co-ordinated approach in tackling it is necessary… The European Commission is following closely the measures that Serbia is taking to fight hate speech, but this fight is a chain in which everyone has its link of responsibility”.

The report, covering the November–December 2020 period, confirmed the findings of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in its 2017 report on Serbia which noted the frequent use of inflammatory, pejorative and nationalistic language and continuing coverage of hate speech by politicians and other public figures.