Indonesia, April 2018 – On 18 April, the EU Delegation to Indonesia sponsored a seminar on hate speech called Society’s Survival Kit in the Post-Truth World organised by the Universitas Indonesia during its Communication week 2018. H.E. Vincent Guérend, EU Ambassador to Indonesia’s keynote speech reflected on the challenges of preserving society from hate speech, without unduly limiting freedom of expression.
Media4Democracy advised the EUD on the choice of an international expert to support this activity, Mr. Joan Barata, who contributed substantially to the approach and content of the seminar. Mr. Barata also shared with academics, media actors and students an international and European perspective on the challenges around disinformation and self-regulation and the role of intermediaries during a specifically focused workshop with students on 20 April.
On 19 April, Mr. Barata made a presentation on regulation of new media in the EU for the Universitas Multimedia Nusantara. The event was attended by an active group of students, as part of the activities of the CommPRESS week 2018. During the event, issues of definition of new media, regulatory challenges, as well as business models were discussed among speakers and attendees.
These activities followed last year’s debate entitled “European and Indonesian Approaches in Curbing Fake News and Hate Speech Online: What Role for the Government and Industry?” organised for the EU Delegation to Indonesia as part of the Jakarta World Press Freedom Day UNESCO events in May 2017. Media4Democracy worked in cooperation with the EU Policy and Outreach Partnership (EUPOP) facility.
Speech by the EU Ambassador to Indonesia, H.E. Vincent Guerend at the Seminar on “Society’s Survival Kit in the Post-Truth World”, an event organised by Universitas Indonesia as part of its Communication Week 2018
EU Ambassador to Indonesia, H.E. Vincent Guérend
Seminar on “Society’s Survival Kit in the Post-Truth World”
organised by Universitas Indonesia
Communication Week 2018
Wednesday, 18 April 2018
Dear distinguished guests, dear students, dear friends,
The topic of today’s seminar – surviving collectively in a post-truth world– has become a priority for our highly connected societies: elections worldwide over the past months have demonstrated the danger of letting emotions and disinformation prevail over facts and truth in social media.
The challenge that I would like to address with you today is actually twofold: how can we preserve the desire to live together that is threatened by hate speech and fake news without unduly limiting freedom of expression and freedom of information?
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The EU is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities.
We Europeans want a society where pluralism, non-discrimination, and tolerance prevail. Human rights are at the core of the European construction.
Both freedom of expression and freedom of information enjoy a specific level of protection and promotion within the EU’s legal framework, as stated by the article 11 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Furthermore, all EU member states are parties to international and regional legal instruments recognising and protecting such rights, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), of which Indonesia is also a party.
The EU’s commitment to protect and promote freedom of expression is actively implemented by the EU in at least two ways
First, the EU strives for the enforcement of international standards that are also part of the EU legal framework: to do so, it closely cooperates in multilateral such as the United Nations, UNESCO or the Council of Europe or OSCE in our region. Part of this effort are the “EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline” issued in 2014, which spell out concrete goals and measures to help the EU advocate for a better protection of freedom of expression.
Second, the EU engages with partner countries worldwide, providing technical assistance and exchanging best practices, including on legislative reform or the safety of journalists and media actors. Today’s event and the participation of a European expert Mr Barat in this session is an example of the EU’s collaboration with its international partners.
Hate speech is a major concern for the EU as well as Indonesia. It is no secret that disseminating hate or inflammatory speech often breeds violence or hostility. It endangers social cohesion by triggering tensions between minorities – migrants, refugees or other vulnerable groups – and the majority, as this was the case during the peak of the 2015-2016 migratory crisis in the EU.
Indonesia faces similar challenges with respect to hate speech. The EU is particularly proud of having funded the project “Halt to hate speech”, which engaged religious leaders and the police as key stakeholders in combatting hate speech in Indonesia.
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Preventing and countering hate speech is indeed a priority in Indonesia, just as it is in the EU. Back in 2016, the EU agreed with major social media providers on a “Code of conduct on countering illegal hate speech online” to help users notifying illegal hate speech on social platforms, to improve the support to civil society and to ensure coordination with national authorities.
Anti-hate speech legislation, on the other hand, should always be respectful of legitimate democratic debate on matters of general interest, because debate is the only durable remedy to hate speech. Special care should be taken when fighting hate speech so as to avoid infringing upon freedom of expression in a manner that is incompatible with international standards.
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From the EU’s perspective, freedom of expression and freedom of information are not only fundamental individual rights. They are also essential pre-conditions for a robust, democratic and diverse society through the existence of free, diverse and independent media allowing for an open and pluralistic flow of information, ideas and opinions.
Preserving the freedom of speech worldwide is therefore paramount for the EU. The EU’s active participation in the World Press Freedom Day celebration in Jakarta last year, for instance, was an expression of this profound conviction.
In this context, one important aspect of the EU’s action consists in giving particular protection to the work of journalists and media, as they play a fundamental role in scrutinising the performance of governments and public institutions, as democracy’s indispensable watchdogs.
Another priority is tackling the issue of disinformation
In January 2018, a High-Level Expert Group was convened to advise the European Commission on fake news and disinformation online, the outcome of which was a recently published report entitled “A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation”.
Disinformation – which encompasses false, inaccurate, or misleading information intentionally designed to cause public harm – is broader than ‘fake news’. It also differs from hate speech, since it is does not incite to violence. As such it should be treated differently: this is why the report recommends enhancing transparency of online news, promoting media and information literacy and safeguarding the diversity and sustainability of the European news media ecosystem to root out the causes of disinformation.
Most importantly, this report advises against simplistic solutions such as censorship or criminalisation.
Experience has proven that criminal sanctions were not able to stop hate speech and the EU will address this issue without proposing regulatory measures impacting the exercise of the freedom of expression.
Combatting disinformation is not easy, neither in Indonesia nor in the EU.
In many EU Members States, there is an on-going debate on what the most adequate measures are. But what matters is that we remain attentive to and avoid any disproportionate limitation of the freedom of speech, because this would inevitably harm the free exchange of opinions and ideas that underpins our democratic societies.
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I would like to end my address by inviting the young and future communication professionals present today to actively participate in a major endeavour: improving the quality and diversity of debate in the public sphere, day after day.
Beyond legal and regulatory aspects, the fight against hate speech and disinformation will be fruitful if (and only if!) those who engage in the important task of disseminating information, opinions and ideas understand and assume their responsibilities and perform their activities professionally and ethically.
The time has come for a new digital generation – your generation – to undertake this important task. I trust you will excel at it.
Thank you for your attention, terima kasih.