As the number of migrants and refugees continues to rise worldwide, so do anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric and examples of harsh treatment of these communities. There has been a sharp, global increase in incidents of both governments and individuals using hate speech against migrants and refugees, blaming them for their nations’ struggles. The words used in politics, in the news, and in social media have consequences. As history has shown, rhetorical excesses can give rise to a climate of prejudice, discrimination, and violence.
The media play a crucial role in influencing public perception of migrant and refugee populations and their integration by providing accurate, well researched and objective reporting and analysis. However, both deliberate and unintentional negative portrayals of immigrants and refugees are often found in traditional and new media, thus negatively impacting people’s views of these communities. In this context, creative measures are needed.
In late 2015, the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) launched the #SpreadNoHate initiative, a platform engaging global media in a dialogue on hate speech and the sharing of best practices to promote counter narratives in traditional and new media.
The fifth #SpreadNoHate symposium, organized in collaboration with Egypt Media Development Program (EMDP) brought together 120+ journalists to discuss the various dimensions and experiences of migration and forced displacement within the MENA region, their media coverage, and lessons learned by journalists. The symposium was covered live on Twitter and trended as No. 1 in both the city of Cairo and nationally across Egypt with the hashtag #SpreadNoHate. It was also widely covered in Egyptian media, by news sites, newspapers, and TV. A full report of the symposium will soon be published.
The fourth #SpreadNoHate symposium, co-organized by UNAOC and the European Union (EU) drew on the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants of 19 September 2016 and on its commitment to counter hate crimes, hate speech, and racial violence. Topics discussed at the Brussels symposium included the role of media in the rise of populism, the triggers and mechanisms of hate speech against migrants and refugees, and the role of Internet intermediaries in combating hate speech. The symposium was the number 1 trending topic on Twitter in Belgium. Speakers included Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, Cecile Kyenge, former Italy’s Minister for Integration, and David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression. A draft summary of the symposium is available here.
The third #SpreadNoHate debate took place at the United Nations Headquarters in New York in the margins of the 71st Session of the General Assembly on 15 September 2016. This third phase of the initiative focused on media practice and on the building of positive narratives to prevent and counter xenophobia against migrants and refugees in the media. This side event was co-sponsored by the European Union (EU), the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Malta to the UN. The event provided a platform for important discussions in preparation for the UNGA High-Level Summit on refugees and migrants on 19 September 2016.
The second #SpreadNoHate discussion took place in Baku, Azerbaijan, during the 7th UNAOC Global Forum, April 25-27 2016. During this second phase, speakers spoke about the role of media literacy and online human-rights education in countering hate speech. They argued that teaching users – especially young generations – to develop inclusive dialogue online and appropriate tools to react to hateful content are crucial in the combat against hate speech. Speakers included Raphael Minder, Spain and Portugal Correspondent, The New York Times, and Dr. Jolene Jerard, Research Fellow, International Center for Political Violence and Terrorism Research, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
UNAOC launched the #SpreadNoHate initiative on 2 December 2015 with a one-day symposium at the United Nations headquarters in New York. Participants examined the different measures taken globally to counter hate speech, and discussed their limitations. They also explored the reasons why hate speech remains a pervasive element that contributes to violent extremism, and the link between hate speech and the treatment of migrants. Panelists included Cristina Gallach, UN Under-Secretary-General for Communications & Public information; John Yearwood, World Editor of The Miami Herald; and Agnes Callamard, Director, Global Freedom of Expression & Information, Columbia University. This launch event reached millions of people online, and the official hashtag #SpreadNoHate trended in New York.
STRATEGIC MEDIA CAMPAIGN & RECOMMENDATIONS
In addition to a series of global symposia, UNAOC’s #SpreadNoHate initiative consists of a digital communications campaign with the hashtag #SpreadNoHate that has engaged millions of people online globally. Moreover, at the conclusion of the cycle of hate speech symposia, UNAOC will publish a full report comprising a concrete set of recommendations. The report will be made available for download on UNAOC’s website and shared widely within UNAOC’s international network of media organizations, media experts, government officials, Member States, and institutions of higher education across the globe. Finally, the report will serve as a foundation for subsequent UNAOC initiatives in the areas of media and migration.
UNAOC’s #SpreadNoHate initiative benefits journalists of all nationalities, advocates, policy-makers and the general public by providing them with a more complete and nuanced understanding of hate speech and with concrete measures to combat it and promote counternarratives. It also contributes to a richer public debate and better media coverage of sensitive issues related to minorities globally.
UNAOC Organizes #SpreadNoHate Symposium with EU in Brussels- 26 January 2017
UNAOC Calls for Hate Speech Crackdown in Baku, Azerbaijan – April 2016
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