EU and Council of Europe new study sets out clear roadmap for combating hate speech in BiH

The Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees presented the study entitled: ‘Mapping responses to hate speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina: A situational analysis and mapping report’ in Sarajevo. The document was developed with support from the European Union and Council of Europe.

It provides a comprehensive overview of the current situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), setting out a clear roadmap and priority measures in addressing hate speech on a systemic level. Besides, the mapping document aims to deepen the understanding of the specificities of hate speech and available remedies in BiH, to set up the basis for dealing with the problem more efficiently.

Bojana Urumova, Head of the Council of Europe office in Sarajevo stated on this occasion: “As a society, we cannot afford to allow for hate speech to become normalised. With this analytical report, we are taking a first step towards understanding how hate speech is currently being addressed in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is really very positive that the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina have shown readiness to address hate speech in a systematic manner, and that we have had such strong engagement from everyone who contributed to the study.

Thorsten Afflerbach, Head of the Council of Europe’s Division for Inclusion and Anti-discrimination programmes underlined that „the methodology of this mapping is innovative, and it looks at hate speech as a complex phenomenon, dependent of a number of factors. Disentangling these factors helps also identify what needs to be done, in very varied areas, including by using the standards spelt out by the latest Council of Europe’s CM recommendation on hate speech, adopted in May 2022.”

The latest report on Bosnia and Herzegovina, by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) and the recent Council of Europe Recommendation by Committee of Ministers to its member states on combating hate speech (CM/Rec. 2022/16), called on authorities to develop, together with civil society organisations and international organisations, comprehensive strategies to prevent and fight hate speech.

“Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous. Hate speech, if not addressed, could lead to hostility and violence.  Combating discrimination and promoting integration are among our top policy priorities inside the EU, as well in relations with the countries in the region and worldwide. We must confront it at every turn and cannot stay silent to any aspect of discrimination and intolerance”, said Gianluca Vannini, Head of Operations Section for Social Development, Civil Society and Cross Border Cooperation, EU Delegation in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Lazar Prodanović, Chair of the Joint commission for Human Rights BiH, who was part of the working group developing the document said that “Elected officials with legislative power should always lead by personal example, in particular by stressing the importance of preventing hate speech, publicly condemning it, and by passing and harmonising legislation in this area, creating an environment of a high degree of tolerance in the multi-ethnic and democratic society of BiH.”

Ahead of the presentation, Saliha Đuderija, Assistant minister, Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees BiH, stated: “Through joint activities supported by the European Union and the Council of Europe’s expertise, the document “Mapping responses to hate speech in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, will help our efforts to contribute to social cohesion and clearly define and emphasise the responsibilities and roles of state authorities and other key stakeholders in preventing and combating hate speech”.

This document was developed through an inclusive active involvement of 34 relevant entities involved, including representatives from state institutions, both entities and the Brčko District, the Ombudsperson, media, international organisations and civil society. It was supported by the joint European Union and Council of Europe action “Promotion of diversity and equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, which is part of the Horizontal Facility programme.