Effective ways to counter hate speech in the media through regulation and editorial practices were at the heart of a meeting held in Tunis last week. Organised by MedMedia, an-EU funded regional programme, the event gathered 20 media participants and experts from the Maghreb region, including representatives from the press, broadcasters, regulators, journalists’ unions and human rights organisations.
“One alarming trend which tends to be overlooked is broadcasting by satellite channels of programmes targeting audiences based in third countries,” said Rachid Khechana, Director of the Tunis-based Maghreb Centre for Libyan Studies and a MedMedia expert.
“Their information bulletins often constitute a real weapon of political and in some cases military combat, in which local protagonists are involved. In the absence of competent authorities to regulate them, they exploit and incite hate with no restraint.”
Younes Mjahed, the Secretary General of the National Syndicate of the Moroccan Press (SNPM), highlighted the growing virulence of hate speech by political parties, in television programmes and social media, where ‘armies of Internet users’ are mobilised to incite hatred towards political opponents. “It is crucial that media take responsibility, but in this area public policies and politicians’ responsibility is just as important,” he added.
The conference also considered other major challenges including the unethical reporting of racism and religious extremism, the unceasing coverage of terrorism, which reinforces people’s sense of fear and insecurity, and incitement of hate speech to increase ratings and profits.
Participants also reviewed MedMedia’s report on hate speech in the Southern Mediterranean, and made contributions to its contents. The report, as well as the final recommendations, will be published in the coming weeks.
The EU-funded MedMedia project aims to create an enabling environment for media reforms in the Southern Mediterranean region. It is part of the €17 million EU programme “Media and culture for development in the Southern Mediterranean” which aims at supporting the media and culture reform processes in the region. MedMedia focuses on media legislation, regulation, programming, strategy and leadership with a view to helping state media fulfil their public service mandate and compete with the commercial sector.
MedMedia project website and facebook page