On November 22-25, Batumi hosted conference “Hate Speech And Information War: a Challenge to Quality Journalism”, organized by Deutsche Welle Academie. Representatives of media and journalistic organizations from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine took part in the conference.
Results of monitoring “Hate Speech in the Media of South Caucasus”, administered on October 1-31, 2014, were presented at the meeting. In each country of South Caucasus two TV channels, two newspapers and two online media were subjected to monitoring.
The study was conducted to examine the linguistic features of hate speech in the South Caucasian media and to elaborate recommendations which could help to decrease presence of hate speech in media, as well as the number of conflict-invoking materials on domestic and international politics, ethnic, religious, gender and minority issues.
According to the results of the monitoring, in Armenian media 1.9% of the total number of materials studied contained hate speech (it was most often used in newspaper pieces), in Azerbaijani media this indicator was at 3.9% (also, predominantly in newspapers’ pieces) and in Georgian media – 2.5% (mostly in online media). Even though these numbers are not high, still they prove that the problem exists and needs to be addressed.
Another factor shows that the media coverage is on an acceptable level: in majority of cases media of the three countries used hate speech only in the main text. Low percentage of “hate-inducing” headlines/subheadlines, leads and TV announcements (as well as video materials in online pieces) provides grounds for optimism, since audience usually starts to get acquainted with media content from scanning / looking through / listening to these key elements.
During the monitored period in Armenian and Georgian media hate speech was most often found in materials on domestic political situation. Materials with hate speech on ethnic and international/interstate issues came second in media of these two countries. In Azerbaijani media materials that contained elements of hate speech were predominately on domestic politics, as well as on ethnic and international topics.
In all three countries of South Caucasus, the studied media used hate speech the least in respect to religious, gender and minority issues.
In general, in media of all three countries soft (creating negative image of a group) or moderate (containing accusations, fostering intolerant atmosphere) forms of hate speech were present. Only in several materials of Armenian, Azerbaijani and Georgian media harsh forms of hate speech were employed (direct or implicit calls for violence and discrimination).
The source of hate speech in Armenian media in most cases were journalists themselves, followed by officials. In Azerbaijani media the main source of information with the elements of hate speech were officials followed by journalists. In Georgian media hate speech was voiced most often by experts/public figures followed by officials, while journalists were in the very bottom of this ranking.
In media of Armenia and Azerbaijan the materials rarely contained balance of opinions. Only in 13 and 10 cases, correspondingly, the party, which was an object of hate speech, was given a chance to answer to allegations within the same material. In Georgian media this indicator is significantly higher: 40% of materials were balanced.
Conference in Batumi also discussed such important topics as practice of self-regulatory bodies in cases of discrimination and xenophobia in media, as well as information wars in post-Soviet media space.
Moreover, the project “Eastern Partnership Media Freedom Watch”, implemented by Internews Ukraine together with media NGOs of the five other EaP countries, was presented to the conference participants.
In addition, Ukrainian journalists presented their project Stopfake, launched in March 2014 on a voluntary basis. The main purpose of this project is to check facts, verify information, and refute distorted reporting and propaganda spread by media about developments in Ukraine.