Hate Speech on Web Portals has declined in Bosnia

The Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), with the support of the OSCE Mission to BiH, published today the analysis of the “STOP! Hate Speech” campaign.  The analysis finds that while still present in media sphere, hate speech has declined in comparison with prior analyses focusing on the same web-portals conducted during previous election cycles.

Launched on 16 October 2020 the campaign was aimed at identifying and responding to hate speech in online commentary during the 2020 local election campaign. From 16 October to 30 November, user comments from across 14 internet web portals in BiH were monitored and analyzed.

“The Press Council of BiH and other relevant institutions helped familiarise the public with possible legal repercussions of hate speech. Failure of public, state and political leaders to demonstrate decency and the type of discourse they engage in greatly contributes to shaping public opinion and triggering reactions of readers who use on-line media to channel their frustrations,” said Darko Maric, analyst and author of the analysis. “It is essential that such leaders be held accountable, given that they often overlook the fact that freedom of speech is not and should not be used as an excuse for hate speech.”

Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH, Kathleen Kavalec, said: “I am glad to see that the use of offensive, divisive or humiliating language during this election campaign cycle appears to have decreased.   We cannot yet be sure whether this decline will be sustained, but these results can motivate us to unite our efforts and to combat spreading views that could fuel intolerance or spark conflict in local communities.” 

Working closely with editors and journalists, the Press Council of BiH has been fighting hate speech online for the past ten years, while making sure that freedom of speech is protected and pointing to its abuses.

“Media outlets that care about their credibility understand that dissemination of hateful messages in comments sections poses danger and is punishable under the law. That is why they are finding ways to eliminate such comments and react to suggestions of the Press Council of BiH. These encouraging results motivate us to stay engaged in reducing hate speech in online sphere and create more room for dialogue among participants in online communication, based on arguments,” said Dzenana Burek, Executive Director of the Press Council in BiH.

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