Back Council of Europe’s anti-racism body calls for a more strategic and coordinated approach to tackle hate speech, including online

Strasbourg 21 September 2023
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The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) today publishes its sixth report on Iceland, together with the Icelandic Government´s comments. The report, covering the situation in Iceland up to 30 March 2023, is focusing on hate speech and hate-motivated violence and issues of integration and inclusion, as well as the effective equality and access to rights.

Progress has been made and good practice have been developed in a number of fields since the adoption of the fifth report in 2016. ECRI welcomes the adoption of the “Equality Acts” in 2018 and the expansion of the mandate of the Directorate of Equality and of the Equality Complaints Committee in 2020.

In the field of education, several bullying prevention programmes have been implemented and the Education Policy 2030 defines “equal opportunities for all” as one of its five pillars. Other positive developments include the adoption of the first ever Icelandic LGBTI Action Plan in 2022 and of the Act on Gender Autonomy in 2019, as well as the setting-up of the Governmental Working Group against Hate Speech in 2022.

ECRI is also pleased to note that the authorities have improved the integration and inclusion of immigrants and refugees by developing a coordinated reception system and streamlining services available to them. In addition, the authorities have shown outpouring welcome to those who have fled Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and regularised their legal status swiftly.

However, despite the progress achieved, some issues give rise to concern. ECRI makes recommendations to the authorities to address them.

The report points out that bullying against LGBTI pupils and students, in particular online, gives rise to growing concern. Moreover, there is neither a national system to monitor racist and intolerant incidents at school, nor a compilation of data on such incidents. ECRI notes that the impact of social media on the spread of LGBTI-phobic hate speech, particularly among young people, is particularly worrying. It calls on the authorities to reinforce their action against hate speech, including by supporting swift adoption and full implementation of the action plan against hate speech, with particular emphasis on effective ways to tackle online racist and LGBTI-phobic hate speech.

As a matter of priority, ECRI recommends that the authorities set up a comprehensive data collection system of cases of racist and LGBTI-phobic hate speech and hate crime. It also recommends that action be taken to raise awareness amongst the general public about the anti-discrimination legal framework and the remedies made available to victims.

In the field of migration, ECRI calls on Iceland to address hate speech against asylum seekers and immigrants, particularly on the internet and social media. The authorities should also collect comprehensive, and gender disaggregated data on immigrants to better ensure their effective access to rights.  

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