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MRG statement on hate speech against minorities in the media, response to the report of the Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues

25 March 2015

Geneva, Wednesday 25th March 2015

Speaker: Mr. Glenn Payot
Human Rights Council – 28th Regular Session

Thank you Mister President, Madam Special Rapporteur,

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) welcomes your report on this important and difficult topic.

Addressing hate speech against minorities in the media is important because we have seen in the past, and we continue to see today, how negative stereotyping and incitement to hatred can lead to further discrimination and violence targeting minorities. Social tolerance for discrimination, enmity towards segments of the population and hate crimes are neither spontaneous nor natural. They are a consequence and a manifestation of a state of mind in part of the society, of a particular dislike towards a population that would not exist if it were not cultivated by people of influence, media outlets, and other opinion-makers.

Combatting hate speech in the media is however a delicate issue. Anti-hate speech laws should be very carefully designed in order not to infringe on the fundamental right to freedom of expression, and should not be used in a discriminatory way. MRG would like to recall in that respect that in some countries, minorities are the first targets and the first victims of what states present as “anti-hate speech laws”. In Libya for instance, rather than protecting minorities, existing provisions of the penal code prohibiting incitement to hatred have been used to arrest and prosecute individuals on grounds of blasphemy-like offenses and accusations of ‘instigating division’. To be truly protective, and not instruments of repression, anti-hate speech laws should be narrowly construed and applied in a non-discriminatory way. Both the Rabat Plan of Action and the Camden principles offer essential guidance in that respect.

Finally, Madam Special Rapporteur, MRG shares your concern that minorities are often under-represented in media outlets across the world, and that their voices, their stories and their views are too rarely heard in mainstream media. With this challenge in mind, MRG has created an online Minority Voices Newsroom. Members of minorities and indigenous communities, and their advocates, are encouraged to upload first-hand accounts, interviews, reports, pictures, audio and video footage addressing issues of importance to them. Journalists and others wishing to learn more can download and use material on this website under creative commons licenses.

I thank you.