From November 12-14, 2014, the Building Trust and Tolerance: Seminar on Journalism and Hate Speech seminar was held in Beirut. It was organised by the Maharat Foundation, the Ethical Journalism Network and the Norwegian Institute of Journalism. Below is the final statement from the event and details further action to combat hate speech.
We, the participants from 14 countries at this seminar to discuss how journalists can combat hate speech, organised by the Maharat Foundation, the Ethical Journalism Network and the Norwegian Institute of Journalism,
Noting the alarming increase in hate speech in journalism and media across the region of the Middle East,
Recognising that hate speech flows from intemperate political speech, propaganda and the malicious distortion of fact-based information,
Believing that increasing religious intolerance, sectarianism and mass migration caused by social conflict and warfare has created widespread uncertainty in the public at large,
Acknowledging that public anxiety is a breeding ground for extreme bias and prejudice that leads to intense hatred and incitement to violence,
Condemning the corrupt manipulation of journalism and media by political and extreme groups for purposes of spreading hatred and propaganda,
Demanding that media organisations must avoid unethical practices and conflicts of interest that may encourage corruption in the news process,
Recognising that full transparency in the way media operate and the relations between journalism and political society is essential to building public trust,
We declare that the exercise of careful, sensitive journalism through ethical and professional media is essential to combat hate speech in favour of a free flow of useful, reliable and trustworthy information,
We further believe that journalists must always report in context, challenging unfounded claims and avoid publishing images or words that might constitute hate speech,
The meeting welcomes the Rabat Plan of Action and endorses the five-point test developed by the Ethical Journalism Network to help journalists avoid hate-speech.
In order to further combat hate-speech, the meeting agrees that the following principles and actions should be taken to promote ethics, good governance and self-regulation:
- To support the EJN Turning the Page of Hate Campaign and to consider establishing a Middle East Centre to Combat Hate Speech in Journalism. Such a Centre should support regional monitoring and existing actions being taken at national level as well as international campaigns such as the Rabat Plan of Action;
- To work for the creation of truly independent journalists-led agencies to monitor and enforce the norms of ethical and public interest journalism in a transparent framework.
- To reform existing media laws to ensure respect for freedom of expression and free access to information. Such reform should remove current laws that jail journalists for doing their work under the pretext of harming “national Interest” and other vaguely formulated definitions.
- To promote transparency in media organisations, including transparency in matters of ownership, editorial policy, political affiliation and financial disclosure of all matters relevant to the performance of the organisation.
- To demand that media should offer staff continuous training to raise professional standards and provide them with necessary skills to be able to work in hostile environment.
- To encourage media to enforce a code of ethics and, particularly, to eliminate all forms of hate speech, especially in countries torn by conflict.
- To encourage the culture of self-regulation to ensure good practice among journalists, transparency and public disclosure of conflict of interest.
- To campaign for better pay and conditions with the aim of fighting corruption among poorly paid journalists and the widespread phenomenon of “paid journalism”.
We call on the organisers of the seminar to follow up on this meeting and to seek further support for the actions set out above.
Beirut, November 14th 2014