#NoToHate: Human Rights Institutions and the United Nations in Bosnia and Herzegovina pledge to counter hate speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina
21 June 2022
Representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsmen Institution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Agency for Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina., the Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina gathered today at the United Nations House for a high-level discussion marking the first-ever International Day to counter hate speech, and reaffirming their commitment to counter hate speech.
Recognizing the persistent prevalence of hate speech in the public space, including online, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the harmful impact it has on the society, notably on reconciliation, these key institutions, all entrusted to counter hate speech and discrimination under their respective mandates, signed a pledge to reaffirm their commitment and express their determination to counter and condemn any manifestations of such speech.
While signing the pledge, dr. Jasminka Džumhur, Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina highlighted that “tolerance, in a society of diversity, established on the principles of preserving the dignity of each individual, regardless of which group they belong to, presupposes an established effective legislative and institutional framework for the prevention and countering of hate speech. Invoking freedom of expression cannot be an excuse to use hate speech, which is why the media, as a channel of communication, has an immense responsibility. "
“It is very important to react in a timely manner, to prevent possible hate speech, and that means more education – by the school system, the media, in everyday public life. Insisting on accountability for the spoken word must be dominant, and thus the role of state institutions, civil society and regulatory bodies must be more efficient. It is crucial to establish effective mechanisms for the prevention, protection from and sanctioning of hate speech in our society. In addition to the fact that regulatory bodies have been established and an appropriate legal framework is in place to prevent and combat hate speech, it is very important that the media and public figures are aware of their responsibilities and the impact they have on the public”, added Ms. Nives Jukić, Human Rights Ombudsman of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On the occasion of the joint signing, the President of the Central Electoral Commission BiH, Dr. Suad Arnautovic, stressed the importance of awareness raising and educating voters and the general public to recognize all forms of hate speech expressed by political officials, candidates and their supporters. The goal of combating hate speech is to strengthen tolerance in a society and the much-needed development and progress of the democratic processes. The document was signed on behalf of the Central Election Commission by Ms. Vanja Bjelica-Prutina, Member of the CEC.
“Discriminatory stereotypes about the roles and responsibilities of women and men in the family and society are present in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which encourages sexist and misogynistic attitudes. Therefore, women are often exposed to gender-based hate speech, especially journalists, politicians, activists and all human rights defenders in general. It is necessary to adopt and implement effective measures to prevent and prohibit the use of sexist and misogynistic language and hate speech in the public discourse. It is necessary to ensure the protection of all women human rights defenders in order to enable them to carry out their important tasks freely without fear or threat of violence or harassment. Now - during the upcoming election campaign, it is especially important to draw the attention of the media, political actors and the general public towards non-acceptance of sexist and misogynistic portrayal of women politicians in the media and point out the importance of positive portrayal of women as active drivers of change in a society”, said Ms. Samra Filipović Hadžiabdić , Director of the Agency for Gender Equality of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina upon signing the pledge.
Ms Amela Odobašić, Director of Broadcasting, Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina underlined that „there is no more problematic issue for those who deal with media freedoms than „hate speech“. Relying on the freedom to receive and communicate information, in accordance with the Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the media are obliged to inform citizens about everything including the appearance of hate speech. The issue of hate speech in BiH is regulated by a legal framework - the Code of Audiovisual Media Services and Radio Media Services, based on the international legal instruments. The Internet is considered as a turbo accelerator of hate speech not only because of the access it provides but also because it allows freedom without accountability. Therefore, dealing with hate speech is a complex and multidimensional task in which all relevant participants in a society should be involved.“
The United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Dr. Ingrid Macdonald, commended the commitment of the institutions, highlighting that “the role of institutions with mandates to monitor, regulate and address discrimination and hate speech is essential in today's world of rapid information flows. In a country where toxic hate speech and disinformation is prolific, these institutions can lead by example, by showing zero tolerance for all forms of hate speech. Words, comments and depictions with the intent of targeting a specific group are never acceptable, and often cause real harm. We all have a role to play to ensure safe public space by saying “No to Hate!”.
The meeting also underlined the need to strengthen cooperation among the relevant institutions, to increase awareness about hate speech and its impact, and to join forces to prevent and counter this phenomenon.
The United Nations team in Bosnia and Herzegovina will continue to support efforts to counter hate speech, as well as disinformation and misinformation under the United Nations global Action Plan to Counter Hate Speech and the #NoToHate action.