The public authorities and local stakeholders involved in the area of combating discrimination and hate speech reiterated their support and commitment to developing comprehensive strategies and activities regarding combating hate speech in North Macedonia and discussed the main findings of the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on Combating Hate Speech.
Under the moto “Society free from hatred: a joint effort and a common goal", the conference was organised by the joint European Union and the Council of Europe Action on "Combating Hatred and Intolerance in North Macedonia" and promoted the key findings of the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on combating hate speech.
During the opening of the conference, the Deputy President of the Government in charge of good governance policies, Slavica Grkovska, said: "The Council of Europe and the European Union have been treating this issue seriously for many years and are helping our institutions and the civil society in their efforts to improve the legislation, including monitoring and analysis of the situation with hate speech in the country. What I would like to refer to is personal responsibility, a trait of those who have a certain influence in the society and are using that influence to spread hatred. Such behavior and such rhetoric of politicians and public figures is a catalyst for negative tensions in the society. And we should all be aware, in our statements and with our actions, what message we are sending to the citizens".
Prof. Gordana Siljanovska Davkova, Ph.D, MP in the Parliament, referred to the legal framework and the mechanisms that can be used towards solving the issue of hate speech and added that "hate speech speaks not of the one at whom it is aimed at, but of the one who uses it".
The representative of the EU Delegation in Skopje, Aleksandru Albu, also supported the event and emphasised that the action is being implemented in a time when a very important reform processes are underway in North Macedonia, which must continue and be accelerated, in order to build a society that is competitive, peaceful and one that responds to the needs of citizens - a society that protects human rights. He added: “Equality and non-discrimination are of fundamental importance; they are the basis of all human rights protection declarations."
Stefano Valenti, Head of the No Hate and Cooperation Unit of the Anti-Discrimination Department of the Council of Europe provided an overview of the Recommendation and pointed out the importance of the document as a practical tool not only in the context of having an accurate process of preparing legal solutions, but also in the implementation of the laws that regulate the use of hate speech.
The conference continued with an open discussion on how to implement the Recommendation in order to address the various aspects of combating hate speech, including developing a legislative framework against hate speech, ensuring a media environment that is countering hate speech and improving the collection of data and the cooperation between the various stakeholders in combating this phenomenon.
The event today also encouraged dialogue between representatives of public institutions, civil society and journalists and other media professionals. The initiatives that have been undertaken so far in accordance with the Recommendation have also been discussed, as well as possible activities by the public authorities and civil society organisations that could be taken in order to support its implementation.
The Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on combating hate speech was adopted in May 2022 in Turin. It provides a working definition of hate speech that distinguishes between different levels of hate speech, according to their severity, and calls on governments to develop comprehensive strategies to prevent and combat hate speech.
This activity was organised in the framework of the Action on Combating Hatred and Intolerance in North Macedonia under the “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Türkiye III” programme, co-financed by the European Union and Council of Europe.