Czech Republic: Online hate mainly attacks Roma
In five European states, leading personalities have joined an online campaign for an internet without hatred, labeling hateful posts they find during online discussion with the symbol #MASTURHATE. In connection with the transition of media outlets to an online format, the number of hateful contributions being posted there today is unequivocally rising.
Online hate is not just annoying and insulting, it has a dangerous influence on children and youth in particular. "Hateful posts in the Czech and Slovak online environments are mostly about minorities, mainly the LGBT community and the Romani minority," says Patrik Banga, a journalist who administered online discussion forums for the iDNES.cz news server for many years before becoming an editor at public broadcaster Czech Television.
"When Romani people are being discussed, the posts without at least some tinge of racism are in the minority. What's more, only a negligible percentage of the purely racist posts are ever reported to administrators, just a few out of the hundreds that exist," says Banga.
The editor points out that regional editions of various media play a specific role in the Czech environment. "Regionally-reported topics are written in a much more emphatic style," Banga says, "and my impression is that the editors of those publications lack detachment which means the discussion posts are similar."
For this reason, the ROMEA NGO has launched the international campaign "I don't masturhate" in the Czech Republic, the aim of which is to contribute toward creating a friendly, tolerant online environment and elimating hate online. "Through this campaign we want to activate internet users to ridicule the hate they encounter and to reject it by tagging hateful commentaries with #MASTURHATE. Through this apt and simple label, they will help identify haters and sideline them during discussions," explains Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of ROMEA o.p.s.
"We are targeting this campaign mainly at young people, which is why we are now launching advertising for it through Facebook," Ryšavý says. Czech actors Bára Hrzánová and Václav Neužil have filmed video advertisements for the campaign that can be seen at www.idontmasturhate.com, and Jarmila Balážová, press spokesperson for the Czech Government Human Rights Minister, has also supported the campaign.
"As an educated journalist, I have worked with language my whole life and I know its enormous power and strength, how it can help target hatred against someone you want to label. What bothers me most of all online is that lists are being published there - of gays, Jewish people, left-wingers, Romani people, they'll be posting lists of bald people next, who knows - and those who conceal their identities online under the cover of anonymity think they can manipulate us this way. They think we're so stupid we can't figure out what's going on. That's why I would like to ask everyone who shares this opinion to use the #MASTURHATE name to identify online hate speech. You can also record a video for the campaign or even invent gestures like the footballers do. I think this will help us all a great deal and we might even have fun at the same time," Balážová says in a video for the campaign.
The campaign is also welcomed by PhDr. Štefan Matula, PhD. of the Research Institute of Child Psychology and Pathopsychology, who says the following: "Behind almost every act of online hatred is actual hatred, a deep, intensive emotion expressing bias, enmity, and resistance toward another person or group of people - even inanimate objects in our environment. This is linked to the need to harm others and cause them pain. On the other hand, usually when we hate someone, what we hate in them is something that is directly a part of us as well. The campaign that is beginning now is a big chance to provide the people who are compensating their hatred in this way with some feedback and understanding of the deeper connections here."
Lawyer and political scientist Štěpán Výborný, in his study called "Freedom of Speech versus Hate Speech Online" (Svoboda slova versus nenávistné projevy na internetu), the only Czech study on this topic, has written the following: "The internet has been used not only by members of radical subcultures who can propagate their ideas at significantly less of a cost to themselves through it, but also by persons who only feel hatred toward a certain minority, which in the Czech Republic is typically toward Romani people. The notion of impunity and total license (without realizing that this is still a social interaction) that is inextricably linked to anonymity has led to a massive dissemination of hateful statements wherever the internet facilitates it - in commentaries about news items, when communicating information through social networks (Facebook, YouTube), when sending mass e-mail messages, etc. Hatred has de facto become a regular component of the discussion of the issue of minorities here, despite the fact that most preachers of hatred would never utter such words during a public discussion because of shame or fear of social opprobrium."
"The word MASTURHATE was creating by changing one letter," explains Michal Moravec, one of the two authors of the original project entered into the Cannes Young Lions Competition 13 PR contest, "we were looking for words similar to hate and we discovered 'masturhate'. It completely fits what we are trying to say."
Michal Hornický, a co-author of the project, says: "For me, a hater is a person who blindly comments on everything going on around him that doesn't correspond to his own convictions and values in a negative way that is not constructive."
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