The participants of the round table “Confronting Hate Speech: International and National Experience, Problems, and Way Forward” that took place on 22 October in Minsk focused on the issues of hate speech, self-regulation of mass media, legal responses to incitement to hatred, and education and training as means to counteract hate speech.

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Over fifty representatives of ministries, international organizations, embassies, civil society, communities of journalists and also, human rights defenders, representatives of vulnerable groups of population, and journalists took part in the event organized by the UN Office in the Republic of Belarus as part of the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech implementation.

As UN Resident Coordinator in Belarus Joanna Kazana-Wisniowiecki said in her speech, the aim of the round table was to maintain the dialogue of all the interested organizations on fight against hate speech, to discuss the role of civil and journalist communities in responding to hate speech and, at the same time, to provide favourable environment for realization of the right to freedom of speech.

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“Enmity and hatred have many faces and they can be found everywhere in the world. Dangerous and hateful propaganda and cyberbulling, which is an emerging problem, and also fake news, which create an imaginary enemy, can incite the worst of crimes,” said Ms. Kazana-Wisniowiecki and further she stressed the specific role of educational establishments in prevention of cyberbulling and verbal abuse on the Internet.

Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus Andrei Dapkiunas emphasized that Belarus shares the concern of the international community regarding spread of verbal enmity. “We see that this tendency gathers momentum along with the growth of economic and social problems and expansion of instability zones in the world,” said Deputy Minister and reminded that in Belarus the necessary measures have been introduced in terms of legislation to prosecute crimes related to intolerance and discrimination.

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 “European Union is ready to support Belarus and the whole Eastern Partnership region in confronting hate speech while guaranteeing respect to human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said head of Political, Press, and Information Section of the Delegation of the EU to Belarus Evelina Schulz stating that in Europe there is no place for hatred and the freedom of expression is one of the major requirements for the progress of the society and every person.

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The theme of the importance of self-regulation of the mass media as a tool of fight against hate speech was highlighted by Joanna Szymańska, representative of Article 19, and Andrei Bastunets, representative of the Belarusian Association of Journalists. The results of the media monitoring were represented by Oleg Rozhkov, representative of the Journalists for Tolerance initiative.

Discriminatory practices against vulnerable groups through the example of using hate speech against the disabled people were addressed by the representative of the Office for the Rights of People with Disabilities Ksenia Tarasevich, and the theme of hate speech against Roma was covered by the representative of Romaintegration Natalia Kutuzova.

The participants of the round table listened with keen interest to the speech of the representative of the National Institute of Education about the efforts of the education system to establish the culture of peacefulness, tolerance, and hate speech prevention in Belarusian educational establishments.

Head of the Centre for Study of Globalization, Integration, and Sociocultural Cooperation of the Institute of Philosophy of the Belarusian National Academy of Sciences Natalia Kutuzova in her speech emphasized the importance of joining the efforts of the Government, civil society and mass media to fight against hate speech.

Summarizing the talk the participants of the round table agreed that fight against hate speech will contribute to the prevention of armed conflicts, violence against women, and other human rights violations.

This fight is the responsibility of all – world governments, civil society, mass media, every woman and man. It is necessary to stand with the victims of hate speech and encourage measures to ensure their rights and access to justice.

It is also necessary to use education as a tool of fight against hate speech and hate speech prevention using all forms of education to foster the spirit of global civic consciousness and tolerance.