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Hate speech in media increased after Arab Spring — study

By Mohammad Ghazal - May 13,2014 - Last updated at May 13,2014

AMMAN — Entrenching  the culture of tolerance and coexistence is a necessity in the Arab world as hate speech by media outlets in the region significantly increased in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, according to a study released this week.

The study, titled “I Hate You,” and conducted by researcher and media expert Waleed Zahra, indicated that hate speech is used as a tool to incite sedition among different affiliations and groups.

Conducted in cooperation with the Centre for Defending the Freedom of Journalists, the study said hate speech in media outlets was used by several Arab regimes to counter opposition demonstrations.

Several media outlets used hate speech to tarnish the image of different political or social powers across the region, and Arab media outlets failed to maintain objectivity and took sides, said the study, which was announced during the third Forum for Media Freedom Defenders in the Arab World earlier this week.

Some Arab countries did not enforce laws that criminalise hate speech such as Jordan and Kuwait, while others do not have laws to penalise such practices to begin with, according to the study, which noted that even the Arab states that are signatory to regional and international conventions on preventing hate speech did not activate such treaties and implement them.

The study indicated that the level of tolerance in the Arab world declined greatly, especially after the Arab Spring uprisings, calling for raising awareness on this issue, spreading a culture of tolerance and coexistence, and denouncing hate speech at early stages in schools.

Media outlets need to increase focus on promoting such a culture, the study recommended, calling for endorsing stricter legislation towards hate speech and those behind spreading it.

The study noted that NGOs can play a crucial role in monitoring media outlets and exposing their practices when they resort to hate speech, underlining the need for training journalists on human rights and how to avoid using hate speech. 

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