Victims of hate speech and hate crime must be empowered, supported and their rights effectively addressed. The internet and online platforms further increase the negative effects of hate speech, as content can instantly spread to a wide range of people. Minister Dikaučič: “What is forbidden in the real world should also be forbidden online.”
One of the priorities of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU in the field of justice is to raise awareness of the importance of effectively combating hate speech and hate crime. Accordingly, on 28 October 2021, the Ministry of Justice, in cooperation with the European Commission, organised an online conference on combating hate speech online and the exchange of good practices between EU member states in the support and protection of victims of crime.
In addition to a number of experts from European organisations, national authorities, civil society organisations and representatives of IT companies, participants were also addressed by the justice ministers of Slovenia, Germany, Portugal and France, the European Commissioner for Justice, the European Commissioner for Equality and the Director of the EU Fundamental Rights Agency.
The participants of the conference took note of developments regarding the envisaged initiative of the European Commission to extend the EU list of crimes to all forms of hate crime and hate speech.
Minister Dikaučič said: “When designing national and European solutions, we must keep in mind the individual victim of hate crime, who is too often a member of a vulnerable group.”
In the first part of the conference, speakers presented studies showing the alarming scale of hate speech online and discussed how national authorities and civil society organisations can work together to combat hate speech online. During the COVID-19 pandemic, hate speech online intensified, as social networks and the internet had an even greater impact on our lives than usual, due to our limited social life.
The EStAR (ODIHR) project was presented at the event, the results of which will be useful both for national authorities in designing high-quality victim assistance solutions and for individuals who are in daily contact with victims of hate crimes. The conference participants learnt about the various activities carried out by national authorities and civil society to protect victims. It is particularly important to raise awareness among all stakeholders, strengthen cooperation and the mutual exchange of experiences between institutions, civil society and law enforcement bodies involved in the fight against hate speech and hate crimes.
The interesting discussion showed how complex the relationship between fundamental rights is, for example between the right to freedom of expression and the right to human dignity, how the internet brings new dimensions to our interpersonal relations and communication, and how important it is to discuss concrete solutions openly and in depth.