Collecting equality data, developing policies and guidance among peers: Equality bodies across South/East Europe equipped with new tools to address hate speech

The third and the final workshop on “Addressing hate speech through improving data collection” for equality bodies from Western Balkans and the Eastern Partnership region took place on 18-19 October 2022, in Strasbourg. As the previous two events on this subject this year (June, July 2022), but also as per the previous years’ assistance tackling other angles of responding to hate speech, it ensured continuation in presenting antidiscrimination and equality standards, relating good practices and tools for data collection important for combating hate speech but also hate crime.

The event focused on establishing a clear link between collection of relevant data, assessment of collected data and development of adequate policies. Special attention was also devoted to the issue of underreporting and important work and effort of the civil society organisations across Europe in this respect, to collect data and support vulnerable groups and victims of hate speech and hate crime. Also, one of the sessions covered the work of the European Court of Human Rights and main sources of information in the case-law on discrimination and hate speech cases, the relevance of national data and statistics all contributing to standard setting and case-law development in these areas.

Participants exchanged experiences of their respective institutions in documenting and combating the hate speech and its effects in offline and online environment. With the use of internet, information is shared much faster, offering many opportunities but also posing some risks especially in terms of sharing harmful content. It is important not only to record and classify the cases of hate speech but also to understand the negative impact of such speech to ones that are targeted, mostly vulnerable groups, such as minorities.

Continuous monitoring and analysis of hate speech are crucial for setting the basis for the development of efficient laws and policies. The monitoring activities should be continuous and used not only to set but also improve existent policies and their impact, to raise awareness of all actors and general public – encouraging education, counter and alternative speech. Interaction between equality bodies, judiciary, civil society organisations and other relevant actors is fundamental for creation of peaceful existence and maintaining of human rights friendly environment.

This series of workshops for equality bodies contributed to making steps forward in combating inequality and hatred using a human rights approach. The regional format of co-operation between equality bodies at the same time enabled a platform for sharing information on applicable European/international standards, guidelines, examples of good practices but also for discussing challenges and possibilities for improvements through networking and mutual support.

The activity was organised within the action “Promotion of diversity and equality in the Western Balkans” (“Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey 2019 – 2022” programme) and the project “Strengthening access to justice through non-judicial redress mechanisms for victims of discrimination, hate speech and hate crimes in the Eastern Partnership” (“Partnership for Good Governance II 2019-2022” programme), joint initiatives of the European Union and the Council of Europe, implemented by the Council of Europe.