The speakers came up with their opinions in a webinar titled ‘No To Hate’ organised by ARTICLE 19 South Asia, a UK-based human rights organization on Monday evening (20 June 2022) to mark the first International Day for countering hate speech (18 June).

The discussants included Huma Khan, senior human rights advisor at the UN resident coordinator office in Bangladesh, Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of the Adibashi Forum, Nawazul Kabir, a gender activist and Machen Hla, human right ambassador fellow at ARTICLE 19, while Faruq Faisel, regional director for ARTICLE 19 South Asia moderated the webinar.

Rumky Farhana, senior program officer of ARTICLE 19 presented the keynote pointing out the objectives and actions that need to be performed to uphold the spirit of the Day. Journalists, teachers, and human rights activists from Bangladesh and Nepal attended the webinar.

In July 2021, the UN general assembly highlighted global concerns over “the exponential spread and proliferation of hate speech” around the world and adopted a resolution on “promoting inter-religious and intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech”.

The resolution recognises the need to counter discrimination, xenophobia and hate speech and calls on all relevant actors, including States, social media companies, media, civil society and other stakeholders to increase their efforts to address this phenomenon, in line with international human rights laws.

The resolution proclaimed 18 June as the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, which has been marked for the first time in 2022.

Huma Khan, the senior human rights advisor at the UN resident coordinator office in Bangladesh, in the webinar, said ‘critiquing or dissenting is not hate speech. Therefore, hate speech must be tackled carefully while keeping the freedom of expression at the forefront. This requires affirmative actions including educating people and raising awareness about the harmful aspects of hate, rather than formulating laws in order to punish.’

Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of the Adibashi Forum, said “The role of education in combating hatred is very important. Diversity is not a threat to society; rather a strength - this mindset must be instilled in today’s youth. Alongside, regular dialogues among interfaith groups and communities as well as cultural activities need to take place to promote diversity for social cohesion and peace.

Faruq Faisel, regional director of ARTICLE 19 South Asia, said, “Hate speech fosters discrimination in society and incites violence. In Bangladesh, people of ethnic, religious, and sexual diversity experience hate speech the most. It is the main job of the state to counter hate speech to protect its victim. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the State to formulate a proper action plan to counter hate speech while respecting citizens’ right to express their opinion and dissent. Alongside, civil society organizations and media must also work together to raise awareness of the dangers of hate speech.”

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