Press release 30.08.2017

Effective ways to counter hate speech in the media through regulation and editorial practices were at the heart of a meeting held in Tunis last week.

Organised by MedMedia, an-EU funded regional programme, the event took place on 24 and 25 August and gathered 20 media participants and experts from the Maghreb region, including representatives from the press, broadcasters, regulators, journalists’ unions and human rights organisations.

“One alarming trend which tends to be overlooked is broadcasting by satellite channels of programmes targeting audiences based in third countries,” said Rachid Khechana, Director of the Tunis-based Maghreb Center for Libyan Studies and a MedMedia expert.

“Their information bulletins often constitute a real weapon of political and in some cases military combat, in which local protagonists are involved. In the absence of competent authorities to regulate them, they exploit and incite hate with no restraint. Some of these channels, in live programmes, stir hate between guests of different confessional, ethnic or clan membership, making discriminatory and unethical discourse common and contributing to the propagation of hate between citizens within a country”

Present at the meeting, Younes Mjahed, Secretary General of the National Syndicate of the Moroccan Press (SNPM), stressed the growing virulence of political parties’ speech, on television and social media, where ‘armies of Internet users’ are mobilized to incite hate towards political opponents. “It is crucial that media take responsibility, but in this area, public policies and politicians’ responsibility is just as important,” he added.

The conference considered other major challenges including the unethical reporting of racism and religious extremism, the unceasing coverage of terrorism which reinforces people’s sense of fear and insecurity, and incitement to hate speech in audiovisual programmes to increase ratings and profits.

Participants also examined a range of solutions to address these trends, including better and earlier education on human rights, the strengthening of editorial control and responsibility, legal reform and a better implementation of laws in place.

In the final session, the participants reviewed MedMedia’s report on hate speech in the Southern Mediterranean and made useful contributions to its contents. The report, as well as the final recommendations, will be published in the coming weeks.

Photo: MedMedia