Intervention by Rafal Pankowski on behalf of the International Network against Cyber Hate (INACH) and Never Again Association, on WEDNESDAY, 21 SEPTEMBER - WORKING SESSIONS 4, 5 - Specifically Selected Topic: The situation of the media in the OSCE region and the role of State and non-State actors in promoting media freedom.

19 – 30 SEPTEMBER 2005
Warsaw, Poland

During the last two years the OSCE has laid the basis for dealing with the issues of cyber hate and Internet-incited hatred and crime In Real Life.

Commitments have been made by the OSCE participating states, most recently during the Twelfth Meeting of the Ministerial Council on 6 and 7 December 2004 in Sofia, to:

• Follow-up the work on Internet and hate Crime
• Investigate and, where applicable, fully prosecute violence and criminal threats of violence, motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or other related bias on the Internet;
• Train law enforcement agents and prosecutors on how to address crimes motivated by racist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic or other related bias on the Internet and share information on successful training programmes as part of the exchange of best practices;
• Study the effectiveness of laws and other measures regulating Internet content, specifically with regard to their effect on the rate of racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic crimes;
• Welcome continued and increased efforts by NGOs to monitor the Internet for racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic content, as well as NGOs’ efforts to share and publicize their findings.
• Encourage the promotion of tolerance, dialogue, respect and mutual understanding through the Media, including the Internet.

INACH is pleased by those commitments. However, much still needs to be done. We like to view the last two years as a ‘becoming aware’ period. We’ve scratched the surface and now need to go further, we need to look at issues in depth, bring the measures into place and make them sustainable.

As freedom of speech goes hand in hand with the responsibility to have respect for the rights and/or reputations of others, we need to be extremely careful when setting boundaries to freedom of speech, but we also need to be very careful in giving hate mongers a free reign in the name of freedom of speech. History has proven that censorship lurks around the corner but has also proven that free speech without ethics and responsibility can have deadly and devastating consequences.

We note that there is a strong push on the part of online hate mongers to describe defamation and racism as ‘journalism’, claiming the freedom this status gives them. There is a strong tendency to publish or show anything on the Internet in the name of free speech, no matter if it is defaming, inciting or plain racist. The dominant mores seems to be hedonistic rather then freedom-loving – anything goes, as was proved a few months back when the gruesome video ‘Housewitz, in which the Holocaust is
ridiculed as a dance-party and its victims are deeply insulted and defamed, was published on a Dutch web forum in the name of freedom of speech, leading to an official protest from the Polish government.
It is a positive tendency when governments and media are alarmed at instances of Internet racism and at offending the memory of victims of the Holocaust. That was the case when Polish mass media, state institutions and some NGOs reacted to the existence of the Housewitz-video on a Dutch server. Through the efforts of INACH the video has been removed from, among others, Dutch and German servers. However, we noted that weeks after the official protests the video was still on line, ironically this time on a Polish server and without any reaction from the Polish media and authorities. We believe the sensitivity to cyber hate in one's own country should exist too.

After last years’ murder on Dutch publicist and filmmaker Theo van Gogh, it was noted belatedly that online incitement and threats against him read as a chronicle of an announced murder;
The murder of Theo van Gogh lead to calls on the Internet to firebomb Mosques and kill Muslims, which resulted in a violent wave of arson attacks and attacks on Muslims in the Netherlands. The list is long.

If you love freedom you should respect the rights, the freedom and the dignity of others.

The freedom of speech is not absolute. Racism, specifically in the form of defamation of particular groups, is not free speech. It is proscribed by law in most countries in the OSCE region and cannot be sanctioned in any quarter. Furthermore, it leads to more hate crime in real life. Indeed, As much as sticks and stones, words break bones.

We recommend that the OSCE participating states:

• Consider the possibilities of follow-up events on all forms of Hate speech and the Internet, including Jihad recruitment and terrorism, including the relation between on-line incitement and hate crime in society;
• Promote and support educational projects directed towards countering hate on the Internet;
• Make an effort to tangibly support hotlines dealing with cyber hate