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Indonesia: Addressing Hate Speech and Disinformation from a Rights-Based Approach

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Indonesia, October 2018 – Seeking ways to address hate speech and disinformation from a human rights perspective, the EU Delegation and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia hosted a two-day seminar in Jakarta from 17 to 18 October.  This broad and participative event attended by 120 participants was agreed as a follow-up to the EU-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue 2018 and aimed at facilitating exchanges on approaches to addressing hate speech and disinformation with the proper protection and exercise of the right to freedom of expression according to international and European standards.

 The Context

Hate speech and disinformation constitute two different but harmful forms of speech that contaminate and erode the quality and inclusiveness of public discourse in many parts of the world. Intensive discussion is ongoing in EU countries on the negative impact of hate speech and disinformation on critical processes such as elections or integration of immigrants and refugees. The undue online influence from non-EU countries in political debates is also a subject of significant concern in the EU.

Indonesia has a vibrant society and a diverse media space with social, political and cultural discourse both online and offline.  While authorities support the principle of free exchange of ideas, there is also a growing concern regarding the impact that certain forms of harmful speech may have on social harmony and mutual respect.

 Hate speech vs freedom of expression: a balancing act

At the two-day event in Jakarta, these matters were addressed by combining and comparing Indonesian and EU approaches and experiences on dealing with hate speech and various forms of disinformation. It was organized around three main thematic areas: legal standards, the role of the media, and the role of online platforms. The event was joined by European and Indonesian speakers and participants, among them legal scholars, government and public officials, media actors and civil society, as well as representatives of the EU and its Member States.

Participants discussed the need to address hate speech and disinformation through a comprehensive analysis incorporating diverse and complementary perspectives, principles and interests. Hate speech and disinformation are directly connected to the right to freedom of expression, as an excessive focus on restrictive measures could lead to negative consequences on the free exchange of ideas and individual freedoms.

Discussions also touched on the ongoing and controversial debate on how to improve the role and responsibility of social media online platforms to counter the flow of disinformation and hate speech, as well as on the best ways to promote a better and more fruitful debate between these transnational actors and national governments. The event also highlighted the importance of finding new business models for media and improving quality of traditional and new formats of journalism to ensure professionalism and accurate information.

The need to improve digital and media literacy through consistent, comprehensive and multi-stakeholder initiatives was frequently highlighted, and this was seen as an important area for immediate action.

Media4Democracy assisted in the conception, preparation, as well as the facilitation of the event together with the EU Policy and Outreach Partnership in Indonesia (EUPOP).

More information: Indonesia and EU discuss tackling hate speech and disinformation and Speech by H.E. Vincent Guérend, the EU Ambassador to Indonesia.