Hate Speech Inspires a Feeling of Violence


„Hate speech is widespread in the Bulgarian society, at that in its most severe form – one that encourages violence and evokes a feeling of menace in the minorities“. This is what Ivanka Ivanova, Legal Program Director of Open Society Institute – Sofia, said during the „Hate Speech and the Role of Society“ Conference. According to data of a national representative study of the Institute, cited by Mrs. Ivanova, the main minorities object of speech hate are the Roma, ethnic Turks and sexual minorities.

The study shows that a substantial part of the respondents associate the word „politician“ with the word „criminal“. According to Ivanova this is an enormous problem, because the leadership of campaigns aimed at restricting speech hate should be taken on by people coming from the political circles and saying: „This speech is a bad thing, it leads to violence and we do not approve such a speech“. However, we do not see such a leadership at the moment and this is the most serious problem we are facing“, she said.

Full text of the report Public Attitudes towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria” in 2013

The Bulgarian citizens interviewed for the study say the main media of speech hate is television, the main “speakers” of hate speech are politicians. According to Georgi Lozanov, Chairperson of the Council for Electronic Media, however, „there is no hate speech as proper journalistic voice in the big media“. In his opinion the „big problem is whether speakers who could hypothetically use hate speech should have access to public media“. Lozanov confirmed that politicians are the carriers of this negative speech and it should be considered whether the immunity of politicians responsible of hostile speech should be lifted. One of the most discussed subjects within the conference was the one about the responsibility of the media – print and electronic. The following participants paid special attention to it: Gabriella Cseh, Head of Policy CEE, Facebook, Georgi Apostolov, Safer Internet program, ARC Fund, Marko Markov of LGBT Organization “Deystvie”, Diyan Dankov of Integro Association.

Intolerance has yet another dimension: for 10 years in Bulgaria only six persons have been convicted of incitement to hatred, discrimination and violence. This happens against the background of a mass incitement to similar behavior – both form the parliamentary tribune, and from electronic media. This is what Krassimir Kanev, Chairman of Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, said. Kanev referred to data of BHC presented a little bit earlier by Daniela Furtunova, Senior Legal Expert at BHC. Against this background Jurate Guzeviciute, Chief Evaluation Officer, Human Rights Monitoring Institute presented Lithuania’s experience of fighting hate speech.

The participants in the conference agreed that the non-governmental organizations in Europe are one of the tools that may oppose speech hate. Many participants paid special attention in their presentations to the potential of NGOs in this respect, namely Patrizia Brandellero, Civil Society Coordinator at EEA & Norway Grants, Brussels, Mara Georgescu, Educational Advisor, Directorate of Democratic Citizenship and Participation – Council of Europe, Carl Miller, Research Director at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media – Demos, London, Margaret Steinarsdóttir of the Icelandic Human Rights Centre in Reykjavik, Yonous Muhammadi, Greek Forum of Refugees, Alexandar Nestorov of No Hate Speech Movement, etc. Elitsa Markova, Manager of NGO Programme in Bulgaria, explained how the subject of opposing hate speech would be considered in the second call of proposals within the Programme. It starts in January 2014.

The negative trends related to the spread of hate speech in society were confirmed by Mrs. Zinaida Zlatanova, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Justice. At the same time she pointed out that „hate speech is not a Bulgarian patent and that the Bulgarian people have demonstrated their tolerance throughout the years“.

„Hate speech has a clear cross-border and transnational dimension. Hate should not find refuge in any place of the EU and this is why we have to cope with hate crimes through consistent and coordinated activities all over Europe“, John Kellock, Director’s Policy Advisor, the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights said.

The Hate Speech and the Role of Society Conference was held within the second annual meeting of NGO Programme in Bulgaria under the EEA Financial Mechanism.