Yara Bader, head of Media and Freedoms program in SCM, spoke at a virtual side event to the 44th session or the UN Human Rights Council #UNHRC44. As part of a group of media and human rights experts from the MENA region and beyond, she discussed hate speech against human rights defenders, nd journalists in the MENA region calling for international mechanisms including the UN systems to act immediately. Here’s her intervention:
In 2017, Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression launched a long term program “Observatory of hate and violence speech “, in partnership with (UNESCO), to measure and evaluate the extent of the use of hate and violence speech in Syrian media, by monitoring the content of the Syrian media, represented by a sample of 24 media outlets representing the research community made up of the Syrian media, with its various types (readable, audible, visible), and of different political viewpoints. In the end, SCM (Observatory of Hate Speech) issued a study, which considered the first of its kind at the level of the Syrian media, and it has concluded in its results that: Syrian media of different political viewpoints and ownership use “hate speech” in varying proportions, with the average use of the means included in the study sample reaching 23.5% as a percentage of the total content they provide.
The results of the study also showed differences in the extent of using the means included in the sample, according to the media style and political direction, and as a result of the monitoring process, the most frequently used vocabulary and phrases were identified, which carried signs of hatred and violence in the media being monitored, and were classified into tables according to the political trend. According to the target group.
Despite the awareness efforts made by SCM and many Syrian, Arab and international institutions such as UNESCO, the European Foundation for Democracy and many others, the war years, with all their human tragedies, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed by all political parties of the conflict against civilians, imposed a reality that is reflected also through Discourse of violence and hatred, clear and direct, against the other, which is politically, religiously or nationally is different.
In Syria, as in many regions of the world, human rights defenders, and women in particular, are among the most targeted groups in this hate speech, and women who are human rights defenders or working in the political field have been victimized twice. The first time a victim of a general culture in which negative discrimination is made against women, and the stereotype of women during the past years (before and during the conflict) as less capable and effective than men in many ways, especially political work, and a second time victim to the sensitivity and intensity of the tension of the political conflict that exists today.
Unfortunately, we have witnessed and witness to this day cases of hate speech and violence against women working in the political affairs, most notably the experience of the “Women’s Consultative Council” which was a part of the former UN Special Envoy to Syria, “Stephen de Mistura”, proposal to the political solution in Syria.
As well hate speech against women working in media and freedom of Expression area, those attacks are more frequent and accelerated even than the one directed against women involved in political affairs, for example, and during the past two months only, we witnessed two cases of severe cruelty towards two journalists. One of them she was victim of direct attack on various social media, after her journalistic work has been rewarded with international award, and this was one of the reason of the attack. Due to the very sad question: why she and not a man?!
We believe that women are not weak but put in a place to be vulnerable, and it is our duty to work to address this negative culture of discrimination, and pressure against hate speech and violence, in aiming to give women from human rights defenders or journalists the fair space to exercise their full and undiminished effectiveness. Where gender, religion, race or political opinion not be a cause for degradation of human dignity in Syria and everywhere, in wartime as well as in peacetime. I conclude with what the German philosopher Hannah Arendt said: (There is no human being, as defined in philosophy and theology, or as it is deduced in the heart of politics, except on the basis of equal rights guaranteed to each other by those who are in most difference with each other).