On the day when the world celebrates the International Day for Tolerance, November 16, and when many voices unite in the fight against violence and hatred, the Center for Education and Research "Nahla" organised an event and panel discussion under the common title "Hate speech and youth - what the consequences it has in the online and offline environment”.
This event is part of the project "Clicktivism makes a real change" implemented by CEI Nahla and the City Administration of Sarajevo, with the financial support of the European Union and the Council of Europe through the action "Promotion of diversity and equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina". The aim of this event was to bring together representatives of authorities and civil society to discuss the possible impact of hate speech on young people online and offline.
In her address, President of the CEI Nahla, Sehija Dedovic, emphasised the importance of responding to any form of hate speech. „We, as non-governmental organisations, have to work to raise awareness that the majority who are most often silent, who do not advocate or support hateful narratives should speak and condemn such speech, to send positive messages, to report comments and hate speech on social networks and send counter-narratives, so that hate messages are less visible and less represented in public space. Through the project "Clicktivism makes a real change", by educating young people, we tried to work on it, because the responsibility is on all of us equally."
Deputy Mayor of the City of Sarajevo Anja Margetić pointed out that through this project the City Administration of the City of Sarajevo, in co-operation with partners, has given its contribution in the fight against this toxic phenomenon. “Hate speech is most often encountered in public, especially in recent years, and it is a serious problem at both regional and local levels. Hate speech is harmful to both the person who uses it and the person to whom it is addressed. The appearance of hate speech in public space also indicates the state of mental health in our society. And all of us, as responsible individuals, need to work on eliminating this phenomenon from our society and everyday life“.
After the introductory speeches, the students of the First Bosniak Gymnasium in Sarajevo performed "Pretty Ugly", a great introspective poem that describes the consequences of hate speech on the human psyche.
One of the speakers at the panel was Irfan Čengić, a member of the House of Representatives of the FBiH Parliament, who initiated the proclamation of the Internet as a public space in terms of respect for public order and peace, so that those who spread hate speech on the Internet could be sanctioned. He shared the good news with those present: “Five cantons have already supported this initiative and plan to incorporate it into their laws. In addition to public order and peace, we also have a criminal law, ie. the possibility of civil litigation and protection from defamation and other forms of hate speech. “
Fuad Avdagić, project co-ordinator at the Youth Initiative for Human Rights in BiH, pointed out that we are a society in transition and everything that young people do or don't do is a consequence of both upbringing and education, so he wouldn't put young people under the lens, and also stated that: “We need to be aware that this is just a consequence of everything that is happening in our education and general value system and it is something we should face. Media literacy is one of the tools to prevent hate speech. At the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, we worked on a handbook for NGO workers and primary and secondary school teachers to contribute to combating this problem and educating young people about media literacy. “
Azra Ibrahimović, Head of Nahla's Psychological Counselling, spoke about the devastating consequences of exposure to online violence and hate speech that she encounters through her experience of psychological counselling: “We have an increasing number of cases of primary and secondary school children being victims of online violence. Online violence and hate speech leave various consequences: emotional, physical, cognitive, and lead to a lack of self-confidence, disturbance of self-image, to more severe forms of depression, anxiety, and unfortunately, we have cases of suicide. Those are young people who do not yet have a developed personality and being a victim of hate speech can have lasting consequences on their personality, and it is important in these situations to seek professional help from a psychologist if necessary, to protect the child's mental health. “
At the end of the panel, it was concluded that it is necessary to unite the efforts of all sectors to strengthen the legislative framework, access to education, provide access to information and making individuals aware of the connection between their behaviour and the consequences it leaves in the lives of others.
Association “Nahla” is a beneficiary of the joint programme of the European Union and the Council of Europe "Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022". The views expressed in this text are the responsibility of the author and do not represent the official views of the European Union and the Council of Europe.