Irina Korobchenko: We are entering election campaign without instruments for penalizing hate speech

The legal framework of the Republic of Moldova on hate speech is incomplete and does not meet the international standards. “Even if the Constitutional Court asked Parliament to amend the legislation and to develop control and punishment mechanisms for the involvement of religious denominations in election campaigns by using hate speech and to prevent and penalize hate speech used by contenders in election campaigns online and offline, since 2016 until April 2021, when Parliament was dissolved, a bill to this effect hadn’t been finished and adopted. We are entering the campaign prior to the snap parliamentary elections without instruments for penalizing hate speech,” Irina Korobchenko, expert in hate speech monitoring at “Promo-LEX” Association, stated in IPN’s public debate “Debunking of false electoral messages and counteracting of speech inciting division”.

According to the expert, hate speech in election campaigns manifests itself in different forms and in different spaces. “In the Republic Moldova, there is no study of the influence of hate speech on the decision taken by voters before going to the polls. But it is known that hate speech is used especially by men and affects women, Romany people, Jews, journalists, Romanian-language speakers, Russian-language speakers and persons of another sexual orientation. A pressing problem is that the number of hate messages in the election camping rises and these messages are spread very swiftly, especially through TV and social networking sites. The goal of hate speech is to manipulate and some of the people seem to believe messages based on stereotypes and prejudice that are disseminated in the public sphere. Some of the messages generate intolerance and incite discrimination,” stated Irina Corobcenco.

She noted that if the police dealt with offenses influenced by particular prejudice, they could ascertain a connection between hate messages that are often repeated in the election campaign against a group and the violent actions against this group so that the persons featured in these hate messages could be later attacked on the street or in their private space.

Irina Korobchenko called on the journalists not to reproduce messages that incite hatred, which are formulated by politicians or religious leaders, and to come with an alternative supplement to this message where experts would explain why hate speech is serious and what impact it can have. “Promo-LEX” also calls upon the political parties to develop codes of conduct by which to monitor hate speech at internal level and to dissociate themselves from these intolerant messages launched in the public sphere, when their members use them when they are not delegated to do this by parties, and to use the national mechanisms when they are victims of such speech”.

Irina Korobchenko said “Promo-LEX” Association has monitored the messages of election contenders starting with May 11 and its next report could include assessments of identified cases of hate speech, including the message of an election competitor that used hate speech against persons of color.

The public debate “Debunking of false electoral messages and counteracting of speech inciting division” is the 186th installment of IPN’s project “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates” that is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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