A council tasked with responding to hate speech publicly was set up on Thursday as part of a project headed by the Ljubljana-based Peace Institute for Contemporary Social and Political Studies. The Anti-Hate Speech Council will be chaired by former Information Commissioner Nataša Pirc Musar.
The best way to fight hate speech is to address the issue rather than to ignore it, believe the proponents of the project dubbed Responding to Hate Speech in Slovenia, which is partly funded by the Norwegian Financial Mechanism.
Veronika Bajt of the Peace Institute said that intolerant, xenophobic and discriminatory public discourse was becoming an ever bigger part of public communication. “Unless we respond to hate speech, we allow it to take root in public discourse.”
The nine-member council is an independent body bringing together a broad circle of interested individuals from the civil society, the media, education and state institutions, while not representing any groups of interest nor institutions, the Peace Institute said, adding that its members will work pro bono.
Members of the council are also: Deputy Human Rights Ombudsman Jernej Rovšek, media researcher Brankica Petković of the Peace Institute, psychologist Metka Mencin Čeplak of the Social Sciences Faculty, gay rights activist Mitja Blažič, journalist Lea Širok, Lija Mihelič of the online hate speech watch Spletno oko, cartoonist Ciril Horjak – dr. Horowitz and rapper Zlatko.
Petković said that much of hate speech in Slovenia was generated by politicians.
Rovšek meanwhile argued that the definition of hate speech in Slovenian legislation was rather narrow, so he announced the council would also draw attention to unacceptable discourse.
The council moreover intends to discuss the definition of hate speech, he said.
It will base its work on hate speech on the definition of the Council of Europe, which says the term covers “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin”.