In November 2008 the Council of Europe launched a guide on Hate Speech with the aim of clarifying this concept. Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights says that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression”, including the “freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers”. However, the convention also stipulates that this right carries duties and responsibilities, which must be respected. For example “the protection of the reputation or rights of others” should not be compromised due to the right to freedom of expression.
Hate Speech occurs when these duties and responsibilities of free speech are not respected. Although there is no one fixed definition for Hate Speech, this term is applied to forms of expression that incite, spread, promote of justify hatred founded on intolerance, including religious, racial and homophobic intolerance.
“The identification of expressions that could be qualified as “hate speech” is sometimes difficult because this kind of speech does not necessarily manifest itself through the expression of hatred or emotion. It can be concealed in statements, which at a first glance may seem to be rational or normal.”
When it is not overtly clear whether statements constitute Hate Speech or not, a number of elements are considered:
– The objective of the person whose freedom of speech was restricted
– The content of the expression
– The context e.g. whether the person who made the statement is a journalist or politician
– The profile of the people who are targets of opinions and expressions
– The publicity and potential impact of the expression, e.g. whether the statement was made in a widely distributed newspaper or in a poem
– The nature and gravity of the restriction
The main issue is whether the speaker was intentionally spreading racist of intolerant ideas through the use of Hate Speech. For more information about what Hate Speech is legally, click below.