October 15, 2013

European Journalists in the quest for fighting hate speech

To the “Media4change” training that took place in Trakai, Lithuania gathered 20 journalists from 14 European countries. The meeting was organized to discuss issues of ethics and higher standards in journalism and the main focus of the training was how to deal with hate speech while informing society.

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Recognition and proper reaction to hate speech, freedom of expression and hate speech, boundaries separating one from another. These are the topics that are vital for journalists especially when upcoming elections of European Parliament stimulated the use of hate speech in the political discourse and the media as the means to gain visibility and form public opinion. The strategy to garner votes by manipulating peoples’ fears and provoking hatred towards unpopular social groups is classic, but measures should be taken to reduce the harm and media is a powerful tool of response.

For four days professional journalists together with lectors from UK and Lithuania tackled the important questions ethical journalism. Joy Francis, director of “Words of Colour Productions”, BBC journalist Nick Nugent, laywer Natalija Bitiukova and Rūta Ruolytė – Verschoore, PhD in sociology, presented the issue of hate speech from different perspectives – media, sociological and judiciary. The lectures and presentations were followed by practical assignments and activities, where the knowledge was applied in practice and participants tried to find solutions to the problems raised and difficulties faced.

The questions of objectivity in practice were amongst most discussed ones. Is it possible to present reader with versatile and unpresumptuous information, without individual bias? How can one combine objectivity with responsibility and also avoid information becoming a platform of hate speech incitement? Raising these questions was followed by sharing multicultural experiences and practises on dealing with hate speech and the result of actions taken.

Human Library, held during the training, gave the opportunity to participants to meet members of socially vulnerable groups and to be inspired for further investigations. The investigations are the propulsion of Media4Change movement, the goal of which is to examine human rights, equality and diversity topics, which are often outside of the media agenda.

zurnalistai5“We can never be fully objective because of our prejudices, likes and dislikes. However, I think that in the last four days journalists understood how important it is to find a balance between what we think and what we write” – said Joy Francis.

The evaluations of the training revealed that participants left Lithuania feeling improved, inspired and encouraged to reach for higher standards in their work. The trainings gave not only the possibility to meet new colleagues and share practises but also to rethink the role of journalism in modern society.

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