A Comparative Study on Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence in Syrian Media- Second Monitoring Round 2020

A Comparative Study on Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence in Syrian Media- Second Monitoring Round 2020

The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression launched the second round of media monitoring within the project “Monitoring hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media” with the support of UNESCO and the European Endowment for Democracy (EED), in the period between February and November 2020, aiming at measuring the types and extent of hate speech in media content, and tracking and recording any changes in comparison to the results of the previous monitoring round conducted in 2019 by a pool of Syrian monitors, consisting of professional journalists trained on media monitoring methods in the first phase of the project.

The study adopted the descriptive-analytical and comparative approach to derive the conclusions. It also used the quota sample method to select (24) media outlets that represent the research community, covering all types of media (written, TV, and Radio). Taking into consideration the different Geographical distribution (media outlets working in the areas controlled by the Syrian government, those working in the areas controlled by The Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, and media outlets working outside of Syria). The search tool used was an online monitoring questionnaire which was designed according to the research requirements and based on the research methodology. Three different questionnaires were designed for each media type. After the monitoring round was completed, the extracted data was accurately reviewed to identify the terms and words which implied hate speech and in which context they were used. Consequently, (3906) forms were selected, with the following distribution: (2520) Questionnaire forms for Published Media, (630) Forms for TV, and (765) Forms for Radio.

The Observatory launched its first study of a sample consisting of 24 media outlets representing the research community which consisted of various types (written, TV, and radio), and of different orientations. At the end of the first round of monitoring, The Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression (SCM) issued the first study of its kind about the Syrian mass media. It concluded that the Syrian media outlets; regardless of their types and orientations, use “hate speech and incitement to violence” in varying degrees, where the average use in the media outlets that were included in the study sample was 23.5% of the total content they provide.

The results of the first study raised several questions, thus necessitating the second round of monitoring. These questions were:

  1. How efficient and effective were the advocacy and awareness raising campaigns conducted by the Hate Speech Observatory, including communication and meetings with the Syrian media outlets following the previous monitoring round, and what was their impact on reducing the use of hate speech and incitement to violence by the selected outlets?
  2. Are there any changes in the rate of hate speech and incitement to violence used by the Syrian media, according to their media type and geographical distribution, compared to the first monitoring round?
  3. Are there any variations in the extent of using hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media outlets, in relation to their media type and geographical distribution?
  4. What are the most common terms implying hate speech and/or inciting violence used by the Syrian media, according to their media types and geographical distribution?
  5. Does the Syrian media content include discrimination against women, and does it include hate speech, stereotyping, or promote inequality?

Scientifically speaking, the importance of this study comes from being an effort to strengthen a new research path at the Syrian level, concerning the studies of hate speech and incitement to violence in the Syrian media, of all types and orientations. The path was established by the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression by creating the (Observatory) for Hate Speech and Incitement to Violence and publishing the first Syrian study on this path.

Practically speaking, the regularity of the monitoring reports may contribute to forming a solid ground to measure the performance of the media -especially after the booming of hundreds of the Syrian media outlets after 2011. And later to design programs that contribute to raising the competency of the Syrian media and limiting the effect of using this destructive discourse for the Syrian society. This would be a step towards achieving civil peace in the country and construct a democratic environment that nourishes the freedom of expression.

The study was based on two main types of data:

  1. Secondary data: It includes previous studies and reports that provided a comprehensive overview and information on the Syrian media after 2011.
  2. Primary data: It is the data related to the study, which is collected through the monitoring questionnaire, designed and developed based on the questionnaire of the previous monitoring round and the experience of SCM in media monitoring. The center has issued several studies in this field, which began with a study on the performance of Media in the 2007 parliamentary elections, in addition to benefiting from reports that summarized regional and international experiences in the field of monitoring hate speech in media content.

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