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Efforts to increase freedom of expression and tolerance should go hand in hand, says OSCE Representative

osce logoVIENNA, December 22, 2014 – At an expert meeting on the relationship between freedom of expression and tolerance and non-discrimination, OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatović emphasized that the two values should not only co-exist, but they can also strengthen each other.

“Freedom of expression is a precious instrument,” Mijatović said. “It facilitates the dissemination and discussion of all kinds of beliefs, thoughts, and creeds. Free speech and free media are therefore vital for the promotion of tolerance and non-discrimination.”

Speaking at an OSCE event titled Freedom of expression for tolerance and non-discrimination, the Representative urged all OSCE participating States to ensure the protection of pluralistic discussions on all issues, including sensitive ones tackling cases of intolerance and discrimination.

“When freedom of expression is protected and strengthened, tolerance and non-discrimination increase in the society,” Mijatović said.

The event, organized by the Representative’s Office, gathered international experts, academia, and government representatives to discuss, among other aspects, the consequences and social implications of intolerant speech in the media, and the best practices to deal with these issues.

Susan Benesch, Director of the "Dangerous Speech Project" and keynote speaker at the event, pointed out that there is no consensus definition of hate speech. Instead, what is considered to be hateful often is subjective.

“We should focus first of all on the damage that hateful speech may cause to those listening to it, and to a society,” she said.

Benesch suggested that influential people within a society, especially state actors, have a responsibility to quickly and strongly denounce public expressions of intolerance, hatred and discrimination.

Mijatović concluded by noting that it is time for the OSCE to move beyond the old discussion of “freedom of expression or tolerance”, as this view hinders efforts to strengthen both values.

The Representative will soon issue a public communiqué on this topic, together with recommendations.

More details of the work of the Representative’s Office on the role of the media to increase tolerance and non-discrimination are available at www.osce.org/fom/106289

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and media freedom and promotes full compliance with OSCE media freedom commitments. Learn more at www.osce.org/fom, Twitter: @OSCE_RFoM and on facebook.com/osce.rfom.


Gunnar Vrang/Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media/Vienna

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