Combating hate speech: What should media journalists do?


Hate speech is a phenomenon that can be defined as threatening language or writing that expresses prejudice against a certain group. In Kosovo, there are many groups of society that are exposed to hate speech, such as women, feminists, the LGBTQI+ community, ethnic groups, and politicians. Intolerance, aggressiveness, and hate speech have become the most distinct characteristics of public discourse in recent years until unfortunately they are encouraged with the development of media technology and especially social networks.

Journalists or authors themselves may be partly responsible for hate speech because, with questions or published texts, they encourage support for hate speech and aggressive behavior in public opinion. Although the main protagonists of the spread of hate speech are those who participate in discussions, often the media themselves, respectively journalists, authors, and editors, become initiators of such communication.

The development of technology had a great impact on journalism becoming faster and faster, which has a negative impact on the quality of information.

If once, the media were the last line of defense of democracy, now in some cases they have turned into defenders of formal parties or not rarely at the service of citizens. Political affiliation is perhaps the main reason why someone becomes the target of hate speech in the media that represents certain individuals or groups.

Unfortunately, no organization in Kosovo has accurate data about the amount of hate speech used in the country, nor how many cases are reported, (if reported). Even more disturbing in all of this is the fact that the media themselves with this form of reporting attract the public and simultaneously increase tolerance towards aggressive terminology.

The dominance of hate speech in public discourse has existed for more than 10 years, since the massive opening of portals began in the country, while the hate and the language used are the results of the decline of professional standards and increasingly unprofessional reporting. Every day, the public is “bombarded” with terms in TV shows such as “idiot”, “terrible”, “grotesque”, “shit”, “criminal” … etc. While the authors simultaneously tolerate and add to the sensationalism, the level of tolerance for violence, mistreatment, abuse, and rape increases, and the public simultaneously does not experience them properly.

Since the content of the hundreds of thousands of texts offered to the general public is free, content creators make a profit from this content, which garners more readership. This is one of the reasons why the editors, although aware of the damage and negative consequences, justify this way of reporting.

On the other hand, the fact that some of the media, however, do not have this method of reporting on purpose, but this is due to ignorance, laziness, lack of professionalism, lack of time, and the impossibility of verification.

While hate speech is punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to 5 years according to Article 141 of the Criminal Code of Kosovo or it can also be punished based on the Anti-Discrimination Law, the effect of sanctioning in the fight against hate speech would be greater if applied equally to all. Between freedom of expression and hate speech there is a fine line, sometimes very clear but often more effort must be invested to assess where it lies.

However, interestingly, the same platforms that promote hate speech can simultaneously be the ones that combat it. Until the efforts to increase the professional responsibility of journalists have increased in the world, Kosovo should also be included in this campaign. Among other things, it is necessary to change the essence of communication in addition to the continuous education of journalists, especially new ones related to the prevention of hate speech, which would contribute to the creation of an atmosphere of tolerance and misunderstanding.

This artical was produced with the financial support of the European Union, within the project “Combating Discrimination, Hate Speech and Gender-Based Violence”.  The content of this publication is the responsibility of ATRC, IKS and D4D and in no way, it cannot be considered as the position of the European Union.