Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) > Events > 26-27 March 2012 - Combating 'Hate Speech' in Europe

Media Pluralism and Diversity and Combating 'Hate Speech' in Europe

Refettorio   26-27 March 2012
European University Institute
Badia Fiesolana - Via dei Roccettini 9
San Domenico di Fiesole (Florence) - Italy
Sala Refettorio

Organised by

DEMOS Institute, Guatemala
Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom - European University Institute, Open Society Foundations,



Against a background of financial crisis, a loss of positive momentum around EU enlargement, and the rise of center-right populist parties – often with ‘Eurosceptic’ credentials and intolerant views – the European social model that has included a commitment to pluralism and diversity in the media has come under intense pressure.

Hand in hand with these developments, Europe has witnessed, particularly in the online world, an increase in extremist and intolerant expression, with some concomitant action – witness, all too tragically, the recent events in Norway. Voices have been raised in favor of increased regulation of the media, sometimes quite draconian, meant to stem the tide of this deeply alarming kind of expression. These have been the voices, not only of those who traditionally condemn media performance, but also of those working very much in favor of human rights – particularly the rights to be free from discrimination and hatred. On the other side have been the advocates of freedom of expression and media freedom, concerned that regulation of so-called hate speech is too blunt an instrument, and may well do more harm than good.

The two tendencies are related. Specifically, it is likely that with the erosion of pluralism and diversity, and in particular with an overall decline of social and cultural diversity in programming and policy and meaningful access for minority groups, Europeans are losing the ability to counter such speech through the effective presentation in the media of robust and convincing messages of tolerance, even-handedness, and openness. To be sure, given the technological developments of the last decade, ‘more expression’ may well be available online for minority and other voices to use – but who will hear those voices, and how can they find room in the dwindling mainstream to reach and influence a mass audience?

In this era of deregulation, then, with an increasingly strident populism, how can governments and parliaments—and the European institutions—be convinced to create secure enabling environments for genuinely effective responses to hate speech, through guaranteeing pluralism and diversity in the media generally, and guaranteeing, specifically, media access by those who would counter such speech?

These are the principal topics that will be addressed in this European consultation for Mr Frank La Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression, in Florence, Italy, on 26-27 March 2012.

II. Objectives

  1. To establish a multi-stakeholders’ dialogue on responding to hate speech in Europe while fully protecting freedom of expression;
  2. To understand the challenges to and opportunities for promoting media pluralism and diversity in Europe;
  3. To identify best practices for promoting diversity, in part as a means of countering hate speech;
  4. To identify follow-up mechanisms to encourage and promote the implementation of best practices.

This regional symposium will bring together approximately 50 participants from throughout Europe. They will include law makers, IT experts, social media activists, representatives from national human rights institutions, IT corporations, public institutions related to media, and civil society organizations. Over the course of two days, participants will analyze these important issues, specifically in light of the rapid development of internet and mobile technologies on the continent.


Recorded video sessions

 You can access the entire recorded video session   also on our livestrem account.


Programme ( download pdf    )


26 March 2012

08:45 – 09:00


09:00 – 09:15

Welcome Remarks

Pasquale Ferrara, Secretary General, European University Institute
Representative of DEMOS Institute

09:15 – 10:15

Session 1: Keynote presentations

International principles and jurisprudence: balancing the protection of freedom of expression with the need to counter and resist hate speech

  • Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression

Europe now:  a comparative overview of legislation on freedom of expression and the prohibition against incitement, challenges to structural pluralism in media, and how the digital environment both aids a pluralism of voices and abets hate speech

  • Aidan White, Director, Coalition for Ethical Journalism

The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom, European University Institute:  an introduction to the Centre’s work on media pluralism and media freedom

  • Pier Luigi Parcu, Director


In this session, Frank La Rue will give a snapshot of Special Rapporteur meetings on the topic in Asia and Africa, and deliver an overview of international freedom of expression principles.  Aidan White will lay out the challenges to structural pluralism, consider how the digital environment aids greater expression of diverse voices but also abets incendiary speech, and describe European legislation on upholding freedom of expression and countering hate speech. Pier Luigi Parcu will give a presentation on the new Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom.


Session 2:  Key cases highlighting the use of national legislation to counter hate speech, with implications for best methods to legislate in this area while respecting freedom of expression

Moderator:  Tarlach McGonagle, Institute for Information Law, Faculty of Amsterdam

  • Barbora Bukovska, Article 19:  Striking the balance in Europe between freedom of expression and offence
  • Daniel Milo, Directorate General of Human Rights and Equal Treatment, Slovak government: Case studies from Slovakia
  • Stefan Sottiaux/Jogchum Vrielink, European University Institute:  Case study:  how hate speech in digital media affects victims and perpetrators
  • Yasemin Inceoglu, Turkey:  Legislative responses to hate speech
  • Peter Molnar, Center for Media and Communication Studies at Central European University: Combining the imminent danger-test with exceptional content-based bans of "hate speech" in Hungary

Paper  presentation:

Uladzislau Belavusau, Vrije University Amsterdam: Fighting hate speech through EU Law

Jon-M. Landa, University of the Basque Country: The crime of incitement to hatred, violence and discrimination: a proposal for a unified standard


This session will examine recent legislative attempts to control hate speech and their impact. Panellists will address the impact that current – or proposed – relevant legislation might have on chilling freedom of expression.Potential discussion of European University Institute working papers on the topic.


Coffee Break


Session 3: 
Examples illustrating the media’s role in responding to hate speech and in resisting xenophobia, discrimination and intolerance by ensuring inclusive journalism and content

Moderator: Milica Pešic, Media Diversity Institute

  • Anne Ardem, Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK): How Norwegian media (and the NRK) handled the aftermath of the 22 July 2011 massacre
  • Claire Frachon, journalist, France 3:013e): Inclusive journalism in France
  • George Lacatus, Roma Journalists Association, Romania: Roma representation in the media
  • Iryna Ulasiuk, European University Institute: News -European media practice on coverage of migration

This session will examine inclusive journalism practices and journalists’ response to hate speech.  Potential discussion of European University Institute working papers on the topic.

13:00 – 14:30


14:30 – 16:00

Session 4: From traditional media to social media and new technologies: how has hate speech migrated online?

Moderator: Beata Klimkiewicz, Institute for Journalism and Social Communication, Jagiellonian University

  • Paul Lewis, The Guardian, UK:  How technology was used during  the 2011 English riots
  • Natasha Yudina, SOVA:  Monitoring hate speech on the internet in Russia
  • Daniel Poohl, Expo,  Sweden: A view from Sweden of hate speech and the online environment

This session will examine the role of online and social media in spreading, and in countering, hate speech, and practice-based responses.

16:00- 16:20

Coffee Break

16:20 – 18:00


Session 5:  Intermediary liability:  Promoting freedom of expression and the prevention of hate speech online

Moderator: Anja Kovacs, The Internet Democracy Project

  • Giovanni Sartor, European University Institute:  Intermediary liability online
  • Brankica Petkovic, Center for Media Policy, Peace Institute, Ljubljana:  Co-regulation vs. traditional regulation – how to ensure that hate speech laws are effective online, without curtailing freedom of expression
  • Joe McNamee, European Digital Rights Initiative:  The perils of online ‘self regulation’
  • Marco Pancini, Senior Policy Counsel, Google, Belgium:  Google and intermediary liability


This session looks at current trends with respect to intermediary liability, and in the specific context of hate speech.  What are the motives of governments to impose liability; should duties be imposed on businesses with respect to content they provide but do not produce; and how to balance enforcement and anonymity online?  Potential discussion of European University Institute working papers on the topic.



27 March 2012

09:00 – 10:30

Session 6: The enabling environment for media pluralism in Europe

Moderator:   Juan Luis Manfredi Sánchez, Universitad de Castilla La Mancha

  • Peggy Valcke, K.U.Leuven:  Findings of the study Indicators for Media Pluralism in [EU] Member States
  • Mark Thompson, OSF Media Program: Findings and recommendations from the Mapping Digital Media project
  • Amy Brouillette, Center for Media and Communication Studies, Central European University: Hungarian Media Law in the European context
  • Bea Bodrogi, Civil Media, Hungary: Also on Hungary: promoting balanced coverage under the new media law 

This session builds on the keynote speeches by providing recommendations on how to act on the media pluralism structural challenges in Europe today.  Potential discussion of European University Institute working papers on the topic.

10:30 – 10:50

Coffee Break

10:50 – 12:00

Session 7. Brainstorm on ensuring media pluralism and diversity, and countering hate speech – next steps

Moderator:   Dirk Voorhoof,   University of Ghent and University of Copenhagen

  • Lorenzo Marsili, European Alternatives : Media pluralism, one million signatures at a time
  • Maryam Omidi, freechspeechdbate.com, Oxford University:  How the Internet can be used to debate the new challenges to freedom of expression
  • Ronald Eissens, board member, International Network Against Cyber Hate:  Bringing the online in line with human rights

This session will respond to challenges identified in the previous sessions, to be taken up at national, regional and international levels.

12:00 – 12.30


12:30 – 13:30

Session 8. Closing Remarks

  • Martin Scheinin, European University Institute:  When to prosecute for expressions - lessons from the counter-terrorism context (Keynote speech)
  • Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression
  • Pier Luigi Parcu, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom-EUI

13:30 - 15:00


15:00 – 16:30

Session 9. Working group (attendance optional): 

Regional overview on freedom of expression, impunity and safety of journalists, bloggers and online activists and strategies for defence

Moderator:   Martin Scheinin

  • Jean-Paul Marthoz, Committee to Protect Journalists: Regional trends
  • Nani Jansen, Media Legal Defence Initiative: Legal strategies to defend freedom of expression


Photo galley

Page last updated on 30 July 2015