The issue of hate speech in online media in Montenegro and how to combat it were discussed on 24 May at a roundtable organized in Podgorica by UNESCO, in collaboration with the South East Europe Network for Professionalization of Media and the Montenegro Media Institute.
Online hate speech has become a major issue for news portals in Montenegro and prompted intense debates among the country’s media professionals. While the Internet has extended the capacities for communication, it has also more and more been used for spreading hate speech.
Journalists and editors from online media portals were invited to discuss their strategies to handle the increasing amount of online users’ comments. The effectiveness and impact on freedom of expression of measures such as user registration and pre-moderation of comments were put under the scrutiny of the audience. The need for more education of civil society about hate speech was particularly underscored.
The risks of increased regulation of the Internet were also underlined. Professional and ethical journalism were presented as solutions to tackle hate speech in online media, in particular through media accountability mechanisms such as codes of ethics and press councils.
In this respect, recommendations emphasized the need for the code of ethics of Montenegro to adapt to the digital environment and modify its guidelines to include online media. The merits of a single self-regulatory body for the country that would represent the whole media community were also highlighted.
The event gathered around 30 participants, including media professionals from offline and online media of the country, representatives of media self-regulatory bodies, ombudsmen, representatives of international organizations and representatives of civil society.
This event took place in the framework of the EU-UNESCO project, “Media Accountability in South East Europe”, which started in January 2013.