Insufficient Punishment of Hate Speech Crimes

[:en] Credit: Reuters [:bs] Foto: Reuters

Incitement of hate speech and violence are very present in Bosnian society and some figures are using it to achieve political, states Vladana Vasić a legal representative for the Sarajevo Open Centre (SOC), which is member of the Coalition to Combat Hate Speech and Hate Crimes.

Hate speech is most often directed towards members of a different nationality or religion, ethnic minorities, LGBT people, and women.

For the situation to change, representatives of various non-governmental organizations (NGOs) believe that there is a need to tighten the provisions of the penal code at the Entity level and in the Brčko District.

The current laws in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina prohibit hate speech based on religion, race and nationality. Vasić states that these grounds are too few. In Republika Srpska and the Brčko District, hate crime is defined as any offense that is motivated by prejudice.

Hate speech is more common than hate crime as it is encouraged by the unregulated sphere of internet communication.

The Coalition to Combat Hate Speech and Hate Crimes documents hate speech that appears online. The victims most commonly contact them online or via mail and very rarely decide to report it directly to the authorities for fear of the consequences. The Coalition clarifies that the victims are usually people who are in difficult economic or social situations and already believe the majority has a negative opinion about them.

In a recent analysis, the Press Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina stated that hate speech in the media has evolved. In the 90s, the most common forms of hate speech were motivated by national and religious intolerance. Today, hate speech is most often manifested through the denial of crimes, the affirmation of totalitarian doctrine, and different political and sexual orientations.

The former promoters of hate speech – politicians, religious leaders and journalists – have become more cautious. Nonetheless, their roles have been embraced by internet users who are hidden behind false identities.

In their anonymity they feel safe and sound in their campaign of spreading intolerance, hate towards others, nationalistic rhetoric, ideological exclusiveness, xenophobia and homophobia.

Hate speech and hate crimes are not properly dealt with, even at the Law Faculty in Sarajevo. This field is generally left for debate and discussion through various trainings and seminars held by NGOs.

Zlatan Likić is a Balkan Diskurs trained correspondent from Vareš. He is a student at the Faculty of Philosophy in Sarajevo. Zlatan is interested in activism in the field of human rights, especially the rights of minorities.

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