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    The Press Council in BiH in Cooperation With Friedrich Ebert Foundation Organized the Round table "Stop! Hate speech!"

    Sarajevo, December 2nd 2014.

    The Press Council in B&H, in cooperation with Friedrich Ebert Foundation, organized a round table to present the results of the online campaign "Stop! Hate speech!". The results of the Analysis were presented by Ms. Ljiljana Zurovac, Executive Director of the Press Council in BiH and Ms. Tanja Topić, research associate of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation. The introductory speakers at the round table were prof. dr Enes Osmancevic, prof. Journalism at the Universities in Sarajevo and Tuzla and doc.dr. Milomir Mirosavljević, prof. Public opinion at the University of Banja Luka. The round table was attended by representatives of the media, media organizations, prosecutors' offices, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, civil society organizations, the Government Committee of the Republic of Srpska to combat hate speech on the Internet and the Coalition for the Fight Against Hate and Hate Speech.

    Goal of the campaign "STOP! Hate Speech" was to take a stand against hate speech, discriminatory and hostile rhetoric in the comments of visitors of internet portal, as well as to educate the visitors of web portals that hate speech and incitement are not freedom of speech and people who share it can be held criminally liable in accordance with criminal law in BiH. The campaign was realized during the pre-election campaign for the General elections in 2014 and a short period after the election.

    The monitor team of the Press Council in BiH monitored the content of the comments during the pre-election period in Bosnia and Herzegovina, posting "STOP! Hate Speech!", to remind or inform visitors of the portal that hate speech is not a freedom of speech, but its abuse, and that it can be sanctioned by criminal law in BiH.

    The campaign included comments and discussions of anonymous visitors to a total of 42 portals in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Hate speech in comments by anonymous visitors was recorded on 22 portals. The total number of recorded cases of hate speech during the campaign period is 1,442.

    From the beginning of the year, the Press Council in BiH received 818 citizens' complaints against the writing of press and online media, 586 complaints relate to comments on web portals.

    The Round Table participants agreed that it was necessary to provide editors with an easier way to identify the incitement; to emphasize that they can count on the support of media organizations and government institutions; to continuously work on educating the public on freedom of speech, as long as its boundaries are reached, and what are the consequences in case of placing inadequate content. Numerous reactions of citizens during the duration of the campaign are an indicator that citizens do not want to read hate speech and they do not want to participate in it.

    An additional problem is the lack of adequate court practice in processing of hate speech cases. There is a legal framework in BiH, but without final convictions for hate speech, progress is not possible. Also, although the competent authorities can act by applying the provisions of criminal law in BiH on "Challenging racial, national, religious hatred and intolerance", it is necessary to define hate speech as an independent criminal offense, what the Coalition for the Fight Against Hate Speech and Hate Crime is working on for two years now. In 2013, the coalition sent a proposal for an amendment to the FBiH Criminal Code that defines hate speech and hate crime in a similar way as it was legally settled in Croatia and Serbia, but changes have not been adopted yet.

    Prosecutors and police authorities in BiH face hate speech as a whole new phenomenon, for which they do not have enough capacity or sufficient level of professional competence. True, there are special units for high-tech crime within certain police authorities, but so far they have not had any concrete results and effective actions. In general, BiH institutions are slow and ineffective, and the fight against hate speech is a long-term process that begins with such campaigns, informing the public and fostering media literacy and culture. The big work is done by the editors of the portals and the media organizations, but it is all in vain if the reaction of the competent authorities - the police and the judiciary - is absent.

    The Press Council in BiH, as a self-regulatory body that does not use repressive measures in its work, is a perfect model that can greatly help solve the burning problem of hate speech, through close cooperation with portal editors and appropriate educational programs. Strict legal solutions that would regulate the work of the Internet portal could mean censorship and the suppression of the right to freedom of information. It is necessary to pass a law that will not be repressive, which will oblige all portals to have an Impressum and register in the Register with the Press Council in BiH.

    In terms of moderation of visitors' comments, it is necessary to consider the idea of creating special software that would search for comments and remove those containing hate speech, incitement and discrimination based on pre-ordered words. The software would be licensed by the Press Council in BiH and all the portals that would use it would have a tag of the Press Council in BiH. Computerization in modifying comments is an imperative, given the inability of the portals to employ moderators, that is, the better utilization of existing staff who could fully devote themselves to performing their primary, journalistic tasks and tasks.

    Campaign "STOP! Hate Speech "was supported by the German Embassy in Sarajevo, Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES), National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and Civil Rights Defenders (CRD).

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