Hate Speech

Journalists play a critical role in building and contributing to peace and harmony within society.

High-quality, independent journalism is a pillar of democracy and it is important that journalists and media professionals understand and act in a way that protects that journalistic reputation. These guidelines aim to provide support and guidance for journalists based on integrity, independence, fairness and accuracy.

In the era of information technology, hate speech can rapidly spread and cause great harm, but journalists can play an important role in countering its spread. It was with this realisation that journalists in the ASEAN region worked together to formulate these guidelines.


Journalists in the ASEAN region understand that hate speech refers to content that targets and causes harm to identifiable groups and individuals, with or without malicious intent.

Hate speech tends to be related, but not limited to, individuals or groups who can be categorised by race, religion, sexuality, country of origin, gender, political affiliation, residential location, cultural identity, disability and age. There is a difference between ‘hate speech’ and ‘hurtful speech’.

The first can, and often does, cause harm and incite violence. The second, despite being hurtful, does not necessarily incite direct harm or violence.

Hate Speech Guidelines

  1. Maintain good journalistic values; accuracy, accountability, and building trust, are three important factors in maintaining good journalism.
  2. Understand what constitutes hate speech content and how best to identify it through the use of tools such as the Ethical Journalist Network’s Five Point Test for Hate Speech.
  3. Differentiate between facts, fiction, and opinion. Ensure to cross-check statements made by experts and analysts. These may be presented as ‘facts’ that might mislead the public and generate hate speech.
  4. Be mindful of the language you use when reporting. Provide context; be aware of semantics, phrasing, and avoid stereotypical references.
  5. Be aware of hate speech embedded within linguistic codes across different cultures.
  6. Ensure the contextual relevance of the story when identifying an individual as a member of a particular group of society.
  7. Avoid stereotyping, generalisation, judgment or labelling, based on race, sexual orientation, religion, gender, and political affiliation.
  8. Avoid partisan views, especially when covering election campaigns.
  9. Be aware of political agendas that use hate speech for political gains.
  10. Consider your own physical and psychological safety when reporting on terrorism.
  11. Avoid publishing graphic or visual content depicting hate.
  12. Establish moderation processes to monitor feedback and comments across all media platforms, including those that are ‘live’.
  13. Refrain from reproducing hate speech across multiple platforms.
  14. Critically assess the content of social media posts before rushing to report on or share them
  15. Moderate comments on social media in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, to avoid inciting further acts of terror.

Watch the EJN’s Aidan White explain how to use the test in this video.



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