Stopping hate speech spread via Internet tops agenda of UN anti-racism committee

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri. Photo: Jean-Marc Ferré

12 August 2013 – The United Nations committee tasked with combating racial discrimination today opened its latest round of work in Geneva with a focus on stopping the spread of racist hate speech on the Internet and social media networks, as well as the need to use education to prevent racism and xenophobia.

“Where does the right of expression, which we all want to respect, stop and the need to sanction and prevent hate speech begin? What is the point in time when one right has to recognize that it cannot be exercised if it implies the violation of another one,” UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Flavia Pansieri said in her address to the opening of the 83rd session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

As the world becomes more inter-connected, incidents in numerous countries have drawn attention to the issue of racist hate speech, which today is more easily spread across national borders, she added.

Ms. Pansieri urged the Committee to include in its deliberations the Rabat Plan of Action, adopted by independent UN experts at a meeting in Morocco in October 2012, on the prohibition of advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.

The Deputy High Commissioner noted that the Committee meets against a backdrop of two landmark events – the annual Nelson Mandela International Day commemoration and the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington in which he made his famous “I have a dream” speech.

Fifty years after his famous speech, Mr. King’s vision remained a dream for many people around the world and that was why, to continue to protect those whose human rights were being violated because of their race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, the Committee’s members are here today, said Ms. Pansieri.

She also spoke about the recent adoption by the Human Rights Council in June of a resolution on education as a tool to prevent racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, which recognized that quality education could help create more inclusive societies.

Noting continued attacks on people with albinism in Tanzania and in other countries, Ms. Pansieri reiterated the calls of High Commissioner Navi Pillay to halt these crimes and to engage with national authorities to educate people against stereotypes, including the belief that body parts from albinos have magical qualities.

The three-week session of the Committee will review reports submitted by Chile, Chad, Venezuela, Burkina Faso, Belarus, Jamaica, Sweden and Cyprus.


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