PACE Speech: The role and responsibilities of political leaders in combating hate speech and tolerance

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Mr / Mrs. President,
Honorable members of the Assembly,

I take the floor to comment on the report for the role and responsibilities of political leaders in combating hate speech and intolerance.

Let me start by expressing my appreciation to the rapporteur for her effort to deal with one of the most important deficiencies of politics today. The report addresses very accurately the problem of hate speech and intolerance which causes increasing discrimination and disharmony in our societies.

Socio-cultural differences in societies enrich culture and increase pluralism. But they can also be exploited by populism. It is sad to observe that growth of right populism is increasing in many member countries of this organisation. The ruling parties position themselves as “us” and create an imaginative “them”. “Them” can be anyone and everyone who does not share the same views with the ruling elite. “Them” can become enemy of the state, of the system or “them” can be positioned against the self-defined values of the ruling authority.

“Us” vs. “them” rhetoric feeds populism, it is against the cultural diversity in a society and can even build “illusory” walls between different segments of society. It erodes the diversity of the society and creates discrimination among the people based on race, ethnicity, religion or sect. This discriminative discourse can also lead to disharmony, instability and disturbance of peace in societies.

Honorable members of the Assembly,

Ten days ago, Turkey went through a very crucial local election process. Crucial because of Turkey’s fragile economy and because of an unsettling change in the parliamentary system to create a so-called Presidential government system, which caused confusion in governance, eliminated separation of powers and eroded the rule of law. During the election campaign, the alliance of the governing parties alleged that the opposition parties were in cooperation with terrorist organizations. That was a striking example of positioning “us” vs. “them” and it was even beyond the concept of hate speech, dividing the country with strong hatred. It is also a common practice of governing authorities in Turkey to blame ethnic minorities and to create discrimination endangering the social harmony of the people.

Feeding racist, xenophobic and intolerant discourse in politics cannot cover up the daily misdemean of authoritarianism and opponents of democracy. It only increases polarization in a society and creates unnecessary tension. When it is used in election periods it becomes much more important because it completely violates the democratic processes and aims to create an unjust, unfair and anti-democratic bias among the public.

Honorable members of the Assembly,

I particularly appreciate the fact that this report emphasises Article 10 and Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Let us support the recommendations of this report to prevent the increase of hate speech and let us hope that it will become a major reference for all the progressive forces who believe in peace and democracy.

Thank you.

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