OBEKTIV DISCUSSION CLUB
CAN FINES STOP THE LANGUAGE OF HATE? The expression ·hate speech” has its origins in journalism, not law. But things do not change because of the labels we use for them. Everyone knows what the term means. According to the legal definition, hate speech is everything that incites hatred on the basis of religious or ethnic differences. This hate speech is punishable by law, or at least on paper, is punishable. In the past few months, hate speech has been heard increasingly frequently on the air in Bulgaria, and seen in some of the print media. In this first year after the June 2005 parliamentary elections, such language found fertile soil among readers, viewers, and radio listeners - or, simply put, among voters. In this way, the Ataka coalition, which took the name of a TV programme, won a place in parliament. During the 2003 municipal elections, the TV programme ·From Telephone to Microphone”, which had a format similar to the one now used by Ataka, was sanctioned by the Electronic Media Council (EMC). Later, the Den television station, which broadcast the programme, was taken off the air for some time. This set a precedent that prompted intense discussion in media circles in Bulgaria. Today we are faced with a much more serious case. The SKAT television station has become the electronic media outlet of Ataka, and a symbol of hatred. In a provocative way, and on an almost daily basis, some of SKAT’s programmes use the language of intolerance and hatred. Such language has started to appear in some of the press, which is meant to regulate itself through adherence to the Code of Ethics of Bulgarian Journalism. Unfortunately, not all mainstream media editorsin-chief signed the code. In the summer of 2005, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, along with other organizations, requested the EMC to monitor several of SKAT’s programmes - ·Ataka”, ·Between the Lines” and ·All Bulgarians Together”, for systematic incitement to hatred and intolerance. What was the result of this monitoring? Can the EMC administrative tools stop this hate speech on the air? Do MPs have immunity against such language? What other means besides sanctions should be used? What about the press, which is not regulated by anyone? In general, does freedom of speech have limits in a democratic society and if so, where does it lie? We invited EMC chairperson Raycho Raykov, Ataka deputy floor leader Pavel Chernev, Bulgarian Helsinki Committee chairperson Krassimir Kanev and journalist Yasen Boyadziev, chairperson of the ·Free Speech” Forum and member of the Board of the Bulgarian Media Coalition, to answer these questions. 6 OBEKTIV
OBEKTIV DISCUSSION CLUB
Raycho Raykov, EMC chairman
In the past two years SKAT has been penalized four times. Two fines were confirmed by court. Following a request by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee in accordance with the Access to Information Act, the EMC has decided to make those two penalties public. Currently, a further two penalties are pending further developments. We cannot interfere with the programme plans of the various media. The only thing that the EMC can do is issue the compulsory rules on the parameters of programmes that have been licensed. I could make a distinction. One issue is the language used by politicians. Could politicians swear in Parliament? Should this be shown on air if it is a violation of public morals? We took a clause from the European Convention on Transborder Television, according to which gory scenes should not be allowed on programmes, especially in
WHAT THE SKAT TV MONITORING REVEALED ·The EMC has four functions defined by law - to license, to register, to monitor, and to sanction. The EMC has to monitor all public and commercial broadcasters to monitor their compliance with articles 14, 17 and 19 of the law - regarding copyright. My colleagues and I believe that none of the TV stations, including the SKAT television, should be publicly condemned. Just recently, we sanctioned the Bulgarian National Radio for hate speech in a music programme. A famous radio presenter had said that famous Roma singer Sofi Marinova should sing in a Roma Eurovision Contest, not in the European one. Our administrative sanction later became a punishment in terms of the Penal Code. Other television stations have committed similar breaches, and the EMC has sanctioned them. When we talk about SKAT we must not refer only to Ataka. There was monitoring during the entire pre-election period between May 25 until late June 2005. Our analysis revealed that SKAT had no more than three TV programmes that were sanctionable. The programme with the biggest role in spreading political intolerance was ·Uncompromising” hosted by Georgi Zhekov. The Radio and Television Act talks about ·programmes that spread racial, ethnic, political, and religious hostility”. Hate speech on such programmes is a violation of article 17, which says that ·radio and TV broadcasters should not allow the broadcasting of programmes which violate article 10, and programmes, which incite national, political, ethnic, religious, and racial intolerance or praise cruelty and violence or are aimed at damaging the physical, mental and moral state of minors.” Article 10 sets out the nine principles about how radio and TV broadcasters should operate are listed. Section 5, paragraph 1 of the article says ·non-admission of programmes inspiring intolerance among citizens”.
Continued on page 9
Pavel Chernev, deputy floor leader of the Ataka coalition THERE IS A DOUBLE STANDARD In my car the other day, I was listening to a youth radio show about an African-American singer who had failed to get pregnant. One of radio presenters said, ·Oh, well, one black baby less. It’s not like anybody is going to miss it!”. I don’t see that young man in the reports by the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee. I can give some other examples. I read in the Sedem newspaper a ·lovely” story condemning my stay at the religious school in the village of Ustino. I was described as a half-blind, half-literate individual, while the policy of the Movement for Rights and Freedoms to spread Islam in the Rhodope mountains continues. This policy means that when the time comes, the Bulgarian Orthodox will be confronted with Muslim clerics who will start converting Muslim villages to Islamic extremism. I do not see the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee taking a position on such articles and comments. Continued on page 10 OBEKTIV 7
OBEKTIV DISCUSSION CLUB illegal. This is why hate speech is unique. It differs from any other actions banned by law. For example, incitement to murder is illegal as is murder itself. For other historical, political and cultural reasons, such language has a destructive effect on the groups it targets. Regarding double standards: hate speech is in the balance between two public interests. On one hand, the interests of the target group (ethnic, religious etc), whose identity and integrity must be protected. On the other hand, we have the right of every person to exercise freedom of speech. This is why a balance must be found. This is the starting point when we have to analyze the standard regarding condemnation of hate speech.
Krassimir Kanev, chair of the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee
In Western Europe people go to prison for this THE SANCTIONS DEPEND ON THE DANGER
Hate speech is a term widely accepted in legal and other literature. When we talk about hate speech, we must understand that it is subject to different limits for different groups within society (politicians, people with different religions, sexuality, etc). International law, and to some extent Bulgarian law, deals mainly with language that leads to hatred and discrimination on the basis of ethnic and religious differences, rather than political differences. This is normal. When we do not like a politician for his views, he can change them (or not), but when we condemn someone because he is a Roma he cannot just go and change the color of his skin or religion. The Bulgarian Helsinki Committee has never protested the fact that someone has condemned a political party or group. In this case, a person can express his right of freedom of speech completely lawfully.
It is incitement to hatred that is punished, not the hatred itself. As for the idea that hate speech should be banned, I am glad that we have a consensus that it must be limited and banned. International law is clear on this question. Article 20 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says that any inspiration of national or racial hatred that leads to discrimination should be banned by law. Both Bulgarian and international law have chosen the method of banning incitement towards certain behavior. It is not illegal to hate someone, but it is illegal to make other people hate someone. This is the only case when the process of making someone do something is illegal when the act itself is not 8 OBEKTIV
If four people sit down in a pub and start joking about and swearing at Roma or Jews, this is not an act of such public interest that it would lead to legal action against them. However it is the context of their speech that matters, because the context is what defines the public interest. It is one thing to say something in a pub; another thing to say it on TV or in parliament. This is how we define the public effect and the danger of such language. Continued on page 11
Yasen Bojadziev, chairperson of the ÂˇFree Speechâ€? Forum and a member of the Board of the Bulgarian Media Coalition FREEDOM OF SPEECH IS THE SEEKING OF BALANCE We say that something cannot be that bad if many people do it, or in this case, more than 300,000 people chose to vote for it. I think, however, that the main problem is that in the past few years, this form of expression has become widely accepted by the public. I am also against double standards, and think that such behavior should not be underestimated. This behavior has
OBEKTIV DISCUSSION CLUB reached its apostheosis, and is very dangerous today because the ·language used at home” has received public recognition in the past year in Bulgaria. You can hear it even in parliament. The Radio and Television Act cannot deal with this. It is obvious that the sanctions imposed on SKAT by the EMC are inefficient. The pecuniary fine is not so important. The public must be shown that this kind of language is illegal, and that it violates not only Bulgarian law, and that it is punishable. Sanctions are not enough because this kind of language has spread to an enormous extent, and has found a suitable environment. The common notion that Bulgarians are tolerant sounds strange today. The same applies to the idea that Bulgarians are very hard-working people. People with complexes come up with such excuses for their lifestyle and behavior. I am not even going to remind you that in many languages, there is no equivalent of the Bulgarian word trudolyubie [love of work]. I think that sanctions will not solve the problem. We need to talk about it in order to solve it. The EMC, for that matter, organizes various forums. We, on the other hand, together with all the media and every citizen, must declare that such language - the spreading of lies, and populist responses to real problems - is dangerous to the whole society. Media self-regulation is part of the solution to this eternal struggle. We must bear in mind that there is no permanent solution to the problem. The institutional section of the Code of Ethics will soon be completed. We have selected two committees and they will soon start working so that every one will be able to file a complaint. Discussion of this issue will be part of the work of the committees. The problem is that most of the media follow the code and will go on following it, but there are some Bulgarian media which still refuse to sign it and have no intention of following it. Such media include SKAT TV. Daily newspaper Monitor is not part of this mechanism and will not sign the code because of the differences that its publisher has with other publishers. What is the real threat within the statement made by Volen Siderov during his election campaign that sooner or later the question of the Roma population had to be solved and that every Roma must be sent to where he belonged - without naming that place? The place had not been specified, but mental associations suggest what Siderov had in mind. In Bulgaria there is such thing as an Anti-Discrimination Act. It uses definitions such as ·harassment and incitement towards discrimination”. We all condemn violence, but to say that a group of people is terrorists is not the right thing to do. However we must not focus solely on this position. I think that civil society must exist as well. Such language is dangerous to the people who use it as well as for those who are its targets. Freedom of speech cannot be measured from point A to point B. Its boundaries cannot be defined that easily. Every case must be reviewed on its own merits.
Raycho Raykov: Den TV set the trend for intolerance Continued from page 7 news broadcasts. In our recommendation we took a text verbatim from the Code of Ethics of Bulgarian Media. ·Hate speech is definitely a form of violating public morals.” In exchanges between the opposition and the ruling coalition, we find no words of love. Just hate. They go so far as to call each other ·homosexuals”. Would you call this love? The term ·hate speech” is a journalistic invention. Just take a look at the papers! Some of them only want to inspire hatred, and I’m not talking about the yellow press. In my view, the media’s self-regulatory mechanism envisaged in the Code of Ethics isn’t working. Articles 162 and 164 of the Penal Code provide that anyone who uses the mass media to incite racial hatred may be imprisoned for up to three years. When Nick Stein was speaking nonsense on Den TV station and we blew the whistle that in Bulgaria his show was spreading hatred against Roma and communists, everyone turned against us. Den TV was not stopped at all. It continued to broadcast the song Let It Be, violating the Copyright Act. Den stopped broadcasting after the station lost all its money. There are attempts by some TV stations to talk about the good news, but this very same Nick Stein now has his own TV show on BKTV station. So where are the limits to freedom of speech, and aren’t they too vague? A freedom is a freedom as long as it follows the law. The law gives freedom to act and the freedom to accept responsibility. No other European language has two words for freedom, as Bulgarian does. One means freedom and the other means excessive freedom. Our problem as a nation is that we hate each other too much. For the time being, the only thing that the EMC can do is to issue administrative sanctions. These sanctions are carried out in such a way that they do not take the form of repressive measures. For example, the chairperson of the Turkish media regulator has the right to stop any programme that violates the law for a certain period of time. This is how the system works in other European countries as well. In Romania, the license of one of the national broadcasters was withdrawn on the grounds of inciting ethnic intolerance. Don’t get me wrong, I do not want more power for the EMC. We rely on the impact of the administrative sanctions such as fines, dialogue with NGOs and most of all on the reflex of self-regulation. OBEKTIV 9
OBEKTIV DISCUSSION CLUB Pavel Chernev: Group rights cannot be justified Continued from page 7 This is why I want to express my disagreement with the double standard used in the case of the Ataka programme, the most popular programme broadcast on SKAT TV, and all other kinds of TV and radio shows, articles and comments that go unsanctioned. You must seek out hate speech everywhere where it exists. Do not do this deliberately. As for the monitoring, there are criminal measures and a certain legal procedure. It is obvious that messages that spread religious and ethnic intolerance cannot be stopped from being broadcast. It would be wrong, however, to think that this is something related only to the Ataka programme. If you look carefully in the press and in what has been broadcast, you will see serious ethnic intolerance there. Unfortunately, I see a double standard. We of the Ataka coalition do not want to confront anyone on a religious or ethnic basis, but we do want to see that the law is the same for everyone. We think that individual rights and obligations are the core of the social contract. There is no such thing as group rights and group rights cannot be justified or compared to any other group rights when it comes to the human rights that are the foundations and achievements of our civilization. ·Hate speech” should not be allowed to be broadcast uncontrolled. Such language, however, should not be identified only for political reasons as is the case with the Ataka programme on SKAT TV. You mentioned that in the Western world people go to prison for even more minor offenses. If the 300,000 people who support the Ataka coalition should be sanctioned, what would the size of the prison be then? As political activist for the Ataka coalition, I can speak about hate speech because I have been called a fascist. Of course I disagree with this description, because I have never been one, but you do not see this as hate speech, do you? The use of such insulting descriptions, such as ·fascist”, which implicates a criminal effect, since fascism is criminalized worldwide - has become commonplace these days. Whether I am called ·a criminal against humanity” or a ·pedophile murderer” is equally offensive to me, because I am neither of those things. But what is the sanction against the hate speech in these cases? It makes me think of someone who talks about God but inside is thinking about the Devil. I heard no debate when in the Roma neighborhood of Stolipinovo in Plovdiv a 13-year-old Bulgarian girl was 10 OBEKTIV
murdered. I did not see your worried faces then. I did not see your worried faces when, in the case of the Mechka village, where people were terrorized by criminals every day, where there were numerous unsolved crimes, and the Interior Ministry had to use force so that order would be established. The same applies to the Roma clan of Zrunkovi.
I will be the first to put down the sword if I see you condemning these acts of hatred. Until you do so, I will continue to claim that there is a double standard. As regards the fact that the Bulgarian fascists used to issue a newspaper called Ataka, I can say that I learned about it after last year’s elections. That is also the name of some French anti-globalists, and to accuse anti-globalists of fascism would be awkward. There might be some similarities. At some of our rallies, there were young people who wore military uniforms, who were marching, singing songs and holding edelweiss. It was a positive step for Ataka when it decided to get rid of such extremists. There were major fights between us, the real patriots from Ataka, and them. In the end we won, and they were asked to do such things somewhere else, not among Ataka. I read in the press that they were forming their own party that will revise Ataka. We had to fight to clean our party of these people, who are radicals with evil intentions. Such radicals are the people marching ahead with Rassate. Many of our real supporters wore their ordinary clothes to our rallies, but this does not mean that they were less patriotic than Rassate’s people. Unfortunately the damage was done and now we have to work harder to escape the bad image that has been given us by Rassate. It was never our intention, Volen Siderov’s and mine, to bring evil and harm into politics. Rassate harshly criticized me when I refused to condemn the ethnic Turks at a gathering of a hundred people. I said only that the majority of the Turks in Bulgaria are actually Bulgarians who were converted to Islam several centuries ago, and I did not want to break the head of ·Uncle Hassan” who grows tobacco. That enraged my fellow party member Rassate. There was a critical turning point for Ataka. Some controversial people though that Ataka was an extremist party and wanted to join us. However, Ataka managed to find its own identity through attracting members and followers who will work within the framework of the Constitution and Bulgaria’s laws. People who want to change the established public order in Bulgaria are not welcome in Ataka.
OBEKTIV DISCUSSION CLUB Krassimir Kanev: For words like these in a Western democracy, people would have been sent to prison Continued from page 8 The sanction must be harsher for a politician who, in parliament or on TV says that, for example, Roma are people who commit rape, theft, murder and terrorize ordinary citizens, or if the politician claims that the Jews are stealing the world’s riches and that the Holocaust is a lie. Here we see the role and the stronger responsibility and commitment of public debate. This is why the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee is interested mainly in the messages coming from politicians. I was against the sanction against Den TV by the EMC, and said so publicly. Today we have a different situation, which demands a different approach. Back then, the sanction against Den TV was given on the basis of a relatively marginal programme that had a public effect that was actually insignificant. I ask you, how many people in Bulgaria knew about the programme ·From Telephone to Microphone”? It had no political or public effect. I think when sanctions are imposed, the effect of the language used must be estimated because this is very important in considering the extent of the sanction.
Do MPs have immunity for inciting intolerance? At present we have a political party which, using this language of hate, won seats in parliament, and created a public atmosphere whose embryo is in the SKAT TV. This is why this station deserves a more severe sanction today than the sanction against Den some years ago. Other forms of regulation are an important part of the law, but cannot replace the law itself when it comes to sanctions. We must not accept that if a certain way of speaking has its followers, this means that it has legal immunity. I oppose criminal persecution of politicians. Hitler re-
ceived much more than 300,000 votes. Does this make him less of a criminal? An action which by its nature is against the law, yet has supporters in society, still continues to be against the law.
Isn’t the boundary to freedom of speech too easy to move? The things that we hear on SKAT are severely sanctioned in Western Europe, and people even go to prison for this. There are many cases of this. For example, on February 20 this year the trial of an English historian arrested in Austria was scheduled to start. His crime was that in his books he had denied the Holocaust. And this is a case where he had not used television or any other public forum to express his ideas. If we look at what Volen Siderov has written in his two books The Boomerang of Evil and The Power of Mammon, we will see that the Catholic Church can only be compared to the Cosa Nostra. We see the same in Georgi Ifandiev’s books, who also hosts a TV show on SKAT. This is incitement towards religious hatred and discrimination. And we are not even talking about how these two authors describe other ethnic or religious communities. The limit to freedom of speech is the law and the effective execution of the law itself. There should be no difference in the way the law prosecutes a murder or hate speech in the media. The law should deal with SKAT TV and all other media that spread such hostile language in the same way that it deals with theft, robbery or murder. OBEKTIV 11
Published on Mar 21, 2011
The expression ·hate speech” has its origins in journalism, not law. But things do not change because of the labels we use for them. Everyo...