Youth politicians and activists against hate speech

How to act against hate speech and extremism? That was the central question when 24 youth politicians and civil society activists from Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Hungary and Norway gathered for a workshop. at Utøya  19 - 22 August 2019.

The European Wergeland Centre and Utøya organized the workshop with the support of the Norwegian Embassies in Prague, Bratislava, Budapest and Warsaw. 

The participants came from different political parties and organisations, to learn about 22. July 2011 and to discuss and explore how to act against hate speech and extremism. The participants also met with Eirik Schrøder, a witness who survived the terror attack at Utøya 22 July 2011. They had the possibility of asking questions and sharing reflections on how both different societies and individuals respond to violence. This was highlighted by the participants as a particularly powerful way of learning.

The European Wergeland Centre
«We have had the opportunity to exchange experience and learn from each other how to consolidate democratic values, to cultivate social debate and to defend fundamental human rights. It was strong and very inspirational»
Frantisek Kopriva, Czech Republic said.

Many of the participants have leading positions in youth organizations of political parties. Thereby, the program was adapted to mainly address hate speech in the public debate. The participants stated that the groups who are usually targeted by hate speech are minorities, refugees, immigrants and LHBTQ communities. The spread of disinformation and “fake news” were also highlighted as a challenge in all countries. There were, however, some variations between the countries, such as that the hate speech narratives (the stories told about certain groups) in some countries are promoted mostly by what can be called extremist movements, while in others they are also supported and promoted explicitly by the authorities.

«Our opinions are often completely different, but that does not mean that instead of a factual discussion based on arguments, we should engage in violent and hateful battles» Karel Pelikan, Czech Republic noted.

To tackle such challenges the youth politicians and civil society activists shared experiences and explored possibilities for working together. One concrete action from the Polish participants was to organise a petition to extend the definition of hate speech in Polish law, using the definitions and experiences from the other Visegrad countries and Norway. The participants also emphasized the importance of educating members in their own organizations and carry out workshops within, but also between, the youth structures of political parties on how to act against hate speech and extremism. Moreover, to initiate social media campaigns such as the #iamhere, which has been done in Slovakia, could be a way for young people to act against hate speech and promote democratic values.

«I've learned a lot. We discussed questions and challenges in national groups, with v4 and the participants from Norway. We tried activities, shared knowledge and learned from mutual experience. The atmosphere of the island was a great driving force for me”
Katarina Hozlárová, Slovakia, said.

Read the final report: 

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