Over the past decade, Kosovo has faced an increase in hate speech in its political discourse, with politicians using divisive and discriminatory language to achieve their goals. Hate speech is a form of verbal violence and any action that attacks a person or a group of persons based on race, ethnicity, religion, politics, disability or sexual orientation is considered as such.
It should have no place in a democratic society and should be condemned by all members of political parties, regardless of ideological differences. Unfortunately, we have witnessed the normalization of hate speech over the years in Kosovo, until this phenomenon risks polarizing society and inciting violence. The intensity of the use of this language increases significantly before and during election campaigns. Undoubtedly, with over 96 percent internet access, as the data of the Kosovo Statistics Agency shows, among the most convenient and effective ways to reach the public are social networks.
In September 2021, shortly before the local elections, at the initiative of the “Democracy for Development” (D4D) Institute, the Declaration of Good Conduct was signed by several civil society organizations, political parties and the media, with the promise that the parties would refrain from discourse negative in social networks. However, the political parties had not fully adhered to this promise. D4D was the one that during the two rounds of the elections monitored the social networks and from the analysis of over 6 thousand articles, 198 violations of the Declaration of Etiquette were found, mostly on “Facebook”, where the dominant language was of hatred. So, political communication turns out to be among the main sources of hate speech. Political leaders are not sufficiently aware of the responsibility that their speech carries and the use of hate speech, especially in social networks which, in the absence of proper self-control, serve as nurseries for the spread of this language.
Consequently, the example of the old also affects the youth of the political parties, who have not actually taken any initiative to change the situation. They need to get out of their comfort zone and start efforts to influence the reduction of the use of hate speech, even by confronting the party elites who practice this phenomenon. Young activists must be insistent that the disciplinary commissions within the parties, perform their function to bring the users of hate speech to justice. Likewise, youth forums should take initiatives to propose the adoption of self-regulatory instruments by parties, such as codes of conduct and ethical codes, against the use of hate speech by their members.
It is important to understand that hate speech is not only a moral issue, but also a legal one. In Kosovo, as well as in many other countries, hate speech is prohibited by law and is considered a form of discrimination and violation of human rights. In addition to the Constitution, the legal framework of Kosovo, which includes provisions on hate speech, contains the Law on Protection from Discrimination, the Criminal Code, as well as the Media Legislation. Despite the ample legal provisions, the efficiency of justice institutions in sanctioning hate speech is lacking. This way, space is created for the further spread of this phenomenon that can bring devastating consequences, creating a climate of fear and mistrust in society.
Kosovo is a young democracy that has made significant progress since 2008 when it was declared independent. However, rising levels of hate speech threaten to derail this progress and plunge the country back into the dark days of conflict and division. It is up to all of us to prevent such an opportunity and build a democratic and peaceful society.
This article was written with the financial support of the European Union within the project “Combating discrimination, hate speech and gender-based violence”. Its contents are the sole responsibility of ATRC, IKS and D4D, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.