Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has made fighting hate speech a “personal” mission after linking its spread to last year’s terrorist outrage in Norway which claimed 77 lives.
Jagland said he would never forget the 22 July 2011 events in Oslo and Utøya and honoured the victims in his speech to a Budapest conference yesterday on the fight against hate speech, organised by the Council of Europe, the European Economic Area (EEA) and Norway Grants.
The Secretary General said the 77 murdered by Anders Behring Breivik were “ victims of the ultimate consequence of hate speech. Utøya was a painful reminder that hate speech – online or offline is real.”
Jagland told the conference-contributors, who included George Soros, Founder of the Open Society Foundations, Gabriella Cseh, Facebook’s Head of European policy and Frank la Rue, the UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, that next March, the Council of Europe will launch a youth-driven campaign against online hate speech.
He insisted that “freedom of speech cannot be unlimited” and set out his own commitment to fighting hate speech, calling on Europe’s leaders to explain that “our pluralist and multicultural societies are here to stay.”
Jagland added: “Too often, we see how hate is spewed online by promoting homophobia and offending attitudes with regard to women, by spreading anti-Semitic stereotypes and by launching attacks on Roma communities.
“This is a testing time for all of us, We must not let hard fought gains be swept away by emerging extremism and nationalism creeping out of cracks created by the economic crisis.
“We may be different but we must never become indifferent.”
Speech: Thorbjørn Jagland – Tackling hate speech – Living together online
Video: Thorbjørn Jagland addresses Budapest conference
Video: Thorbjørn Jagland on the fight against hate speech
News: Tackling online hate speech