Aidan White

9th April 2018


The Ethical Journalism Network has launched a programme aimed at countering hate speech by helping journalists and media supporters to draft glossaries of words and phrases that cause unnecessary offence and even lead to incitement.

Two initiatives are underway, one in support of media on the divided island of Cyprus, and the other in the Middle East where journalists and media academics have agreed a programme to counter hate speech following the successful publication of a glossary for Egyptian journalists.

Since 2011 Egypt’s political upheaval has coincided with hate speech in media becoming increasingly used to pursue cultural, sectarian and political agendas, as well as to discriminate against activists and those wanting to participate in political debate and civil society.

In the absence of agreement on what should be de ned as hate speech and how media should approach the problem, the EJN and the Egypt Media Development Programme partnered with the American University

in Cairo’s Department for Journalism and Mass Communication to create a glossary of hate speech in Egyptian media as a starting point for the development of clear guidelines and standards.

The glossary, which was launched at the American University in Cairo and at the Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism conference in Jordan in December 2017, begins by providing background on how Egyptian law and the country’s constitution define hate speech, as well as relevant universal human rights principles. The guide provides examples of where media have fallen short of their ethical responsibilities when dealing with dangerous language and images.

But it also illustrates good practice and provides guidance to help journalists and media identify hate speech and report on it in an ethical context using the EJN’s five-point test for hate speech.

The five-point test is translated into 30 languages and gives journalists and editors a step-by-step formula for evaluating speech to see whether it is potentially incitement to hatred or violence.

Rd. Naila Handy, Associate Professor and Chair of the AUC’s Journalism and Mass Communication department, who presented the glossary to the Arab-US Association for Communication Educators’ 22nd Annual Conference in Cairo in October outlined how the glossary and the five-point test work well together as part of an editorial strategy to address the problem of intolerance in media reporting.

The second initiative is part of a ground-breaking programme of co-operation between media organisations and press councils in Cyprus in an attempt to help break an information impasse that has been in place since Turkish military action in the north led to the division of the country in 1974.

Leaders of journalists’ unions and the two media councils, responsible for the self-regulation of media on both sides of the divide, met in the demilitarised buffer zone that separates the country’s Greek and Turkish-speaking communities on October 9 for a series of meetings with Harlem Desir, the recently-appointed Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Desir, whose office leads the only intergovernmental media watchdog in the world covering 57 countries, announced the glossary as one of two new initiatives in support of Cypriot journalists.

Firstly, a pioneering media exchange project, which for the first time will see selected young journalists from neighbouring communities working in the newsrooms of media outlets on the other side of the political divide.

“This project will widen the professional networks of young journalists,” he said, “and it will increase understanding in both communities about the lives of their neighbours.”

At the same time, the country’s two press councils and unions of journalists gave their unanimous backing to a proposal for the creation of a joint glossary of insensitive words and potentially inflammatory speech to counter stereotypes and hate speech in media reporting.

The glossary, which is being prepared for launch in the spring of 2018, will be produced in Greek, Turkish and English, The Ethical Journalism Network has been providing advice and guidance on the content of the glossary.

Similar initiatives for glossaries are being considered for Kenya, Turkey and Ukraine. These publications serve two useful functions: first, to promote internal editorial discussions on the routine and often casual use of language and terms that can be an obstacle to better understanding and, secondly, to eliminate language that can provoke an angry and sometimes violent response from people who are the targets of hate.

Photo by Jens Aber on Unsplash

Download the glossary

Download the glossary

Download the report



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