International Day for Countering Hate Speech: Sanctions imposed over talk show Bujica, NGO Vigilare

NEWS 18.06.202415:10 0 komentara
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This year, the Electronic Media Council (VEM) investigated 36 cases of possible hate speech and incitement to discrimination and penalised broadcasters Z1 and STV for broadcasting the Ustasha salute and the association Vigilare for incitement to discrimination based on gender identity. Pročitaj više

In the run-up to the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, which is celebrated on 18 June, VEM reported that there was no increase in hate speech in 2023, i.e. a greater erosion of human rights and an increase in discrimination in the media.

This refers to most of last year, while in December 2023, broadcasters Z1 and STV aired the political programme Bujica, in which the salute of the Croatian Ustasha regime, allied with the Nazis in World War II, was used by a viewer without any intervention and at the instigation of the presenter Velimir Bujanec, and published an article entitled “Scandalous: A crèche run by two lesbians”.

The media supervisory authority announced that the two cases were being processed and the two media service providers were penalised with a four-hour broadcasting ban (Z1 and STV) and a warning, followed by a report to the criminal prosecution authorities (Vigilare).

Hate speech often remains invisible and is not reported

“The VEM has thus sent out the message that it does not tolerate incitement to hatred or any form of discrimination. Apart from these three cases, there were no violations of the relevant law that could be classified as hate speech in 2023 and the first half of 2024, despite the super election year when political passions were running high,” VEM President Josip Popovac told the Croatian news agency Hina.

According to the VEM, most of the cases investigated concerned electronic publications (27), while nine cases related to television stations. There were no complaints from citizens or institutions about discrimination or hate speech in relation to radio stations, VEM said.

Even though VEM says that there has been no significant increase in hate speech, at least not in the media, the non-governmental organisation Human Rights House claims otherwise.

“Hate speech often remains invisible because victims rarely report it, even though it can have lasting and serious consequences. This is recognised as the problem of under-reporting, i.e. the awareness that reported cases represent only a small proportion of actual cases,” says the NGO, which, together with other NGOs, drew up an action plan to combat hate speech in February this year.

The Human Rights House says that the latest research shows a higher frequency of hate speech, especially in the digital environment, and that this is often due to current developments, such as the increasing number of foreign workers from third countries living and working in Croatia.

Hate speech comes from people with social influence

It notes that given the public discourse, unacceptable forms of communication have been further normalised among citizens themselves, as evidenced by reader comments on web portals. Nevertheless, the most dangerous form of hate speech comes from public figures, according to the NGO.

“The hate speech that has the greatest reach comes from people with social influence – politicians, journalists and sportspeople. It is very important to publicly condemn such statements… and prosecute such cases, as well as impose restrictions on the media through regulatory bodies and codes of ethics,” says the Human Rights House.

The Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) warns of further dangers hidden in statements made by public figures, especially politicians.

“The Domovinski pokret party has the freedom to say that the weekly Novosti should not be financed from the budget because it believes that the weekly should be ghettoised and does not write about Croatian reality. This is not hate speech in itself, but it is the kind of speech that triggered numerous anonymous threats that arrived at the HND, both against Novosti journalists and against the HND itself…”

Media as an “axis of evil”

HND also warns against Stephen Nikola Bartulica, a Croatian member of the European Parliament, who “instead of giving answers to concrete questions, accuses journalists of waging a campaign against him and harassing his family, which is a blatant falsehood.”

Bartulica and politicians like him are fuelling hatred against reporters with their statements, says the HND.

“Our politicians… should choose their words more carefully, because inappropriate rhetoric that can incite hatred seems to come mostly from them, as the ombudswoman notes in her human rights report for 2023,” the HND says.

“Perhaps it is illusory to expect our politicians to condemn such calls for the lynching of reporters, especially since they themselves have a habit of naming them, but we believe that a clear and unambiguous message that such behaviour is punishable would help reduce the number of such offences. Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, for example, has commented on the threats against the weekly Nacional, in which the weekly was labelled an ‘axis of evil’, a term the Prime Minister himself reportedly used to describe Telegram, Nacional, Index, 24 sata and N1 at a meeting behind closed doors. The minister responsible (for culture and media) has not yet commented on the matter,” according to HND.

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