Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence Observatory in Syrian Media (Phase II) Conclusions

In accordance with the Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice issued and adopted by the UNESCO’s General Conference 20th session on 27 November 1978, as well as various articles of international human rights law, the Syrian Center for Media (SCM) concluded phase II of the project “Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence Observatory in Syrian Media”. The project runs in partnership with UNESCO since September 2017. The “Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence Observatory” seeks to establish a broader partnership with Syrian media outlets and civil society organizations while building on previous experiences and endeavours in the implementation of this project. It also aims at raising awareness within the Syrian society and the Syrian media community in particular about the causes of such speech, its forms and consequences, while providing ways for dealing with this issue, and establishing tools and standards to limit its use.

Phase II lasted for five months (from April to August 2018) during which 24 Syrian media outlets were monitored to assess the levels of hate speech and instigation to violence. During the monitoring phase, the work was divided into four phases: methodology, monitoring process, workshop on the concepts of combating hate speech, and the glossary of terminologies. The Syrian media arena has witnessed some great developments since 2011 that include a boom of printed, audio and visual media. Due to constant changes at the political and military fronts in Syria, it was necessary to develop a special research methodology consistent with the Syrian context and its particularities.

Twenty-four monitoring focal points conducted the monitoring process was conducted which lasted for seven days. The specialists were previously trained at a SCM-UNESCO workshop on monitoring mechanisms. The phase was concluded with issuing general findings, as well as media outlet-specific findings to be discussed with the media outlets in question during a later phase of the project.

The third phase included organizing a workshop on concepts to combat hate speech and violence for a total of 24 monitoring focal points to build their capacity on concepts related to hate speech and violence and mechanisms to limit their spread. In addition, the procedural definitions used by monitoring focal points during the monitoring process were reviewed and updated, and hate speech and incitement to violence terms were highlighted. The workshop introduced a set of detailed concepts within the context of monitoring, such as studying media expressions and linking them to their journalistic context, as well as scrutinizing their social implications.

The final phase was about developing a dictionary of terminologies which encompassed 134 commonly used expressions in Syrian media (as identified during the monitoring period) across all affiliations. Procedural definitions were also developed to be able to identify terms that incite hate and violence in the Syrian media.