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01.02.2017

#iComment: Journalism organisations join EU fight against hate speech

by Ana Ribeiro

In actively putting in mechanisms to quash hate speech in the public sphere, the European Commission (EC) is now funding campaigns by media organisations to educate journalists on how to build a fairer, more ethical narrative on different groups in light of the refugee crisis.

No Hate_900X600 The European Commission is partnering with media organisations in combatting hate speech via grants dedicated to the purpose. Photo: public domain

The EC selected nine projects in 2016 to share a budget of more than €4.8 million, according to the list of grantees it released last July. All involve entities from multiple European countries, and are dedicated to “preventing and combatting racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance”. Two of these initiatives are led by media organisations.

Journalist-centred campaigns

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) spearheads “Media Against Hate”, launched about a month ago in a widely publicised online campaign. The EFJ currently represents more than 320,000 journalists and 71 organisations in 43 countries, and monitors the observance of journalists’ rights Europe-wide. Its hate speech-related project is getting about €544,000 from the EC, and brings together six EU regional partners.

The Asociación De Emisoras Municipales Y Comunitarias De Andalucía De Radio Y Televisión (EMA-RTV) is at the forefront of the other campaign, “Respect Words”. It gets an EC grant of about €639,300 and includes seven partners also from the journalistic sphere. Many of the partners are independent news outlets with a community focus.

The Sevilla-based association of Andalusian public broadcasters follows the refugee crisis closely and often shares articles reporting related abuses. Besides that, it advocates for causes such as the protection of community public broadcasters from forceful privatisation, and greater equality and participation for social groups.

Media Against Hate #MediaAgainstHate logo and banner. Source: http://europeanjournalists.org

"Ethical standards" in need of work

EFJ’s partners in “Media Against Hate” are the Croatian Journalists’ Association (one of its members); the Belgium-based Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE); Austria’s Community Media Institute (COMMIT); the UK-based Article 19 and Media Diversity Institute; and the Italian international development NGO Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo dei Paesi Emergenti (COSPE). The impetus for launching the project was the “crucial role” played by journalists and media organs “in influencing both policy-making and societal opinion on migration and refugees”, the EFJ said in a statement.

Despite some good journalism practices and courageous journalists speaking out against hate, additional training and resources for media professionals and media organisations are needed in order for them to uphold ethical standards when reporting sensitive subjects.”

The initiative focuses on workshops to be held in different European cities, as well as the simultaneous dissemination of relevant news, ethical standards and best practices via its website. Its Twitter hashtag, #MediaAgainstHate, has already been generating quite a bit of buzz.

5-point test for hate speech "The 5-point test for hate speech", featured in the #MediaAgainstHate campaign, is available in 30 languages from the EFJ and Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) websites.

The campaign also has an ongoing video contest in which media workers and students are asked to show “how their daily work helps fight against discrimination and counter hate".

Meanwhile, the first related Media Literacy Training session is being organised by two of the campaign’s partners, CMFE and COMMIT, and will take place this April in Vienna.

COSPE, the only non-media organisation in the project, is collaborating with the Association Carta di Roma – dedicated to implementing a journalistic code of conduct for immigration and minority matters – to provide training modules on how to curb hate speech in the media. Part of COSPE’s work has involved educating the public, the media and other institutions in Italy and Europe on inequalities in the North-South relationship, and on greater inclusion and integration of immigrants.

“The construction of new imaginaries”

“Respect Words” has a similar theme – “ethical journalism against hate speech” – but turns more directly to producing new broadcasts. An EMA-RTV statement on the initiative says the campaign’s partners “will work together to contribute in the construction of new imaginaries, indispensable to the fight against hate speech.” The statement refers to “a particularly disturbing European context” involving “the dehumanisation of migration policies, the rise of Islamophobia and xenophobic discourses, [and] the commercialisation of journalistic information.”

This project stresses the need to rethink the treatment with which the media and their professionals address issues related to migration processes as well as ethnic and religious minorities.”

“Respect Words” brings together “more than 150 European media and around 1,300 journalists from the 8 partner countries.” While many of the partners are locally-based, others have a broader reach. All are media-related.

The EC names them as Comharchumann Cumarsaide Pobal Bhaile Atha Cliath-T (community radio broadcaster from Dublin); the Italian Radio Popolare; the Slovenian Radio Student (Slovenia); the Foundation for Civil Radio Broadcasting (based in Budapest); the Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (Greece’s state-owned public broadcaster); Radio Dreyeckland Betriebs (free, non-commercial radio from southwest Germany); and the International Press Institute (IPI).

Respect Words Screenshot from the newly launched RespectWords.org.

This campaign's website is still under construction. EMA-RTV lists the project's first stage as partners working individually to develop parts of an “ethics code” on immigration- and minority-related reporting. They will proceed to putting it together into one document, then to collectively launching an online map. The map will showcase “good practices at the European level in the field of communication, culture and integration”. 

In the final stage planned for "Respect Words", each of the partners will be tasked with producing 20 programmes broadcasting the topics the project covers.

Scott Griffen, director of press freedom programmes at the IPI, told the ECPMF that “Respect Words” has just started; its first series of roundtables and seminars will take place in Sevilla later this month. Running from 13-15 February, its overarching title is "Migratory processes and minorities: journalism facing new challenges".

The IPI’s role in the project is as primary editor of the ethics guidelines, to be drafted in close collaboration among all the partners starting this summer, according to Griffen.

Griffen called the project “extremely important”, adding that “we feel there’s a lot of room for improvement” in terms of media reporting on refugees and minorities in Europe being done “fairly and without bias or stereotypes”. While some media outlets are “doing a wonderful job”, others may not have had enough training, time or awareness to learn to appropriately treat the issue – from a journalistic rather than ideological standpoint.


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