How can journalists determine what is hate speech? In a world plagued by censorship, press freedom violations and propaganda it is difficult for reporters to judge what type of rhetoric is acceptable and what is intolerable. Currently there is no accepted international definition of hate speech and the levels of tolerance vary dramatically from country to country.
The below infographic helps journalists navigate through this minefield and take into consideration the wider context in which people express themselves. They must focus not just on what is said, but what is intended. It’s not just a matter of law or socially acceptable behaviour; it’s a question of whether speech aims to do others harm, particularly at moments when there is the threat of immediate violence.
TURNING THE PAGE OF HATE:
A MEDIA CAMPAIGN FOR TOLERANCE IN JOURNALISM
When it comes to hate speech, journalists and editors must pause and take the time to judge the potential impact of offensive, inflammatory content. The following test, developed by the EJN and based on international standards, highlights questions in the gathering, preparation and dissemination of news and helps place what is said and who is saying it in an ethical context.
1. STATUS OF THE SPEAKER
- How might their position influence their motives?
- Should they even be listened to or just ignored?
2. REACH OF THE SPEECH
- How far is the speech traveling?
- Is there a pattern of behaviour?
3. GOALS OF THE SPEECH
- How does it benefit the speaker and their interests?
- Is it deliberately intended to cause harm to others?
4. THE CONTENT ITSELF
- Is the speech dangerous?
- Could it incite violence towards others?
5. SURROUNDING CLIMATE – SOCIAL / ECONOMIC / POLITICAL
- Who might be negatively affected?
- Is there a history of conflict or discrimination?
AVOID THE RUSH TO PUBLISH
TAKE A MOMENT OF REFLECTION
Watch the EJN Hate Speech video playlist
The dangers of hate speech in journalism are well known and can have tragic consequences. In response, the Ethical Journalism Network launched the Turning the Page of Hate campaign in 2014 to mark the 20 year anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.