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Media: Frequency and relevance of hate speech incidents in public life (and media) and media representations against migrants and minorities?

Key Area:
Public Life, Culture, Sport & Media
22/02/2012 - 04:25
Short Answer

No studies are available on the frequency of hate speech, but international reports record that media outlets oftten stir up hatred. 

Qualitative Info

There are no studies on the frequency of hate speech in the media. However ECRI and other international reports have repeatedly pointed out that media outlets have played a negative role in stirring up racial hatred. The Fourth ECRI report on Cyprus released in 2011 recorded that "negative attitudes towards migrants, asylum seekers and refugees are commonly expressed in political discourse and in the media" and that "that there is wide publication in Cyprus of xenophobic articles and sensationalism continues to be common in the media" (

In September 2010 the equality body published a set of guidelines for the media in the framework of a PROGRESS program. The initiative, which was initially intended to lead to a binding Code of Conduct has instead resulted in a set of guidelines to the media, based on the logic of self-regulation of journalists. The journalists’ organisations in Cyprus, as well as the author of the publication who is a journalist himself, reject ‘external intervention’ to the conducting of journalism, such as Codes of Practice, as these are seen as restricting freedom of speech which is, according to the author, an inalienable constitutional right. The publication states that international and European experience has shown that regulatory frameworks with prohibitions and restrictions may have prevented the more obvious and extrovert manifestations of racism in the media but have not prevented ‘new racism’ in the media which is covert and implied. With the exception of regulations for television and radio, there is no binding law against racism in the media, only non-binding recommendations in the Code of Journalistic Ethics. The author admits that in practice there are gaps and distortions often leading to the production and reproduction of racist and xenophobic stereotypes but does not consider that a strict legislative framework or a Code of Conduct, which will in any case lead to restrictions in the freedom of speech, will solve these problems. Instead a set of guidelines, contained in the last two pages of the publication are proposed aiming at sensitising media actors so as to avoid racist and xenophobic discourses. It also lists a number of other recommended initiatives to promote awareness and sensitisation of journalists, such as training programs, the setting up of journalistic ethics committees, research on journalists’ perceptions of migrants, measures to encourage media outlets to hire migrants and other vulnerable groups, good practice manuals, conferences and others.

This publication presents a number of problems. First, it omits to refer to legal instruments (e.g. the Criminal Code, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination) which criminalise racist publications and prohibits public incitement to violence and to hatred. These provisions are described by the author – and indirectly rejected- as “post colonial remnants restricting freedom of the Press”. The author ignored landmark ECHR decisions such as Soulas and Others v. France (no. 15948/03) which established that the French Court’s conviction of the authors of the book “The Colonisation of Europe- Truthful remarks about immigration and Islam" for inciting hatred and violence against Muslim communities, had been justified. The interference in the applicant’s right to freedom of expression that was seen by the ECHR as "necessary in a democratic society". In this case, the ECHR had noted that the terms used in the book were intended to give rise in readers to a feeling of rejection and antagonism and to lead the book's readers to share the solution recommended by the author, namely a war of ethnic re-conquest. This is particularly important for Cyprus, where the media often refers to immigrants as ‘invaders’. (The Guide is available in Greek at: In its Fourth report on Cyprus in 2011, ECRI recommended that the authorities evaluate whether the new code constitutes an effective means of combating racist and xenophobic discourse in the media and strengthen it if necessary. No such evaluation has been carried out to date.


Groups affected/interested Migrants, Ethnic minorities
Type (R/D) Anti-migrant/xenophobia, Nationalism
Key socio-economic / Institutional Areas Media, Political discourse -parties - orgs
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