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Young Roma stand against hate speech

In the first talk of the season, the Ame Panzh team chose a sensitive subject as the main focus of the broadcast again: hate speech. This talk was part of a current project by the Romaversitas Foundation running in 10 countries: they are trying to get young people involved in actions to draw attention to the harmful effects on the entire society of hate speech against Romani people. Standing against hate speech is rather important regardless whether the news are about a new born baby or a crime of stabbing since they often lead to comments of racism, or even incitements of violence would surely appear in the comment sections in Hungarian media.

Joci Marton, Nikolett Suha, Laci Farkas and Judit Ignacz with Boglarka Fedorko’s moderation are presenting several specific examples which are exploiting the question of the line between the definition of free expression and hate speech. Furthermore, what is the role of public media of spreading or curbing the spread of hate speech? Also, are the current safeguards of big-tech companies enough to manage the present day’s stereotypes or, indeed, not enough is done?

Niki Suha points to a simple fact that in Hungary – legally – the category of hate speech is not recognised but the category of inciting violence against communities is. If we project the notion of 10 stages of genocide onto the notion of inciting violence we will realise that the law will step in at stage 8 or 9 only. It is not difficult to see that this is more than late and combined with the fact that court sentences pertinent to incitement of violence are too lenient and out of sync with the modern world it begs the question whether our law-making apparatus is up to date with present day requirements. It is high time for this issue to be finally addressed in the applicable manner of the realities of a modern world. Never mind the lack of qualified victim–support staff – do big-tech giants have procedures in place to deal with these kind of challenges? 

Niki Suha also points out that Judit Varga’s announcements regarding the regulation of big-tech companies are nothing short of a well-dispersed smokescreen as the European Union with much more far reaching influence have also failed to achieve anything on the front of regulating hate speech. „If they take this question seriously , they should include the matter of digital rights and digital safety as part of the national core curriculum.”- Niki suggests.

It was also discussed that as a result of rioting around the Capitol, Donald Trump’s accounts on Facebook and Twitter got banned. Laci Farkas agrees that this was a hypocritical act and nothing short of cynicism by big-tech companies as „hate speech should have already been banned years ago.” In Laci’s opinion the prime minister of Hungary and his cabinet take the lead in thematizing the public opinion especially in demonizing Roma, Jew or LGBTQ minorities. During the campaign of the last Polish election everyone could see what kind of online and offline assaults were being launched against LGBTQ people. This tendency unfortunately seems to be mirrored at an alarming pace in Hungary as well.

Judit Ignacz highlighted that only a few cases of inciting violence get prosecuted and taken to the court. If so, the perpetrator’s responsibility is very seldom questioned or the weight of the sentence usually does not match the weight of the committed crime. Despite the number of the committed crimes of inciting violence is quite high, in reality only a few cases are taken to court. Young Roma people in Romaversitas’s project found 58 examples of online hate speech between October and December, 2020. “Authorities usually fail to consider hate speech as a valid motive to further investigate these cases.” – Judit points out. It seems counterproductive for the police to attend to only physical crimes and ignore hate speech when the modern world demands different prioritisation.

What other issues should be looked at differently? According to Joci Marton the definition of democracy should not be reduced to the level of freedom of speech. This is particularly important because freedom of speech is given a higher priority over the other principles of a democratic society. We have to realise, like in physics, every action has an equal and opposite reaction – every word is going to cause some kind of resonance in specific layers of the society, Joci ascertains.

Joci Marton is reminding us that freedom of speech and incitement of violence can and will step out of the online comment battlefields which in turn manifests in physical violence. Remembering the 2008-2009 Roma murders the extreme right wing political entities have not admitted their responsibility very much the same way Donald Trump has not admitted his involvement in motivating his supporters before the Capitol riots. “How is freedom of speech, as a democratic right, impeded by limiting incitement of violence and hate speech by law? What is the benefit of legitimising hate speech if this results in marginalising minority groups which are going to be hurt the most?” – Joci asks.

Finishing the show the team provided the audience with advice on how to protect ourselves from becoming too involved in these online comment battles.


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