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18th Open Society Forum on Freedom of Speech and Hate Speech

September 12, 2013, Nordic Hotel Forum

This year's topic can be seen as a natural follow-up to the issue we discussed in 2012 - the spread of populism in Europe. Although freedom of speech is a crucial component of democracy, we now hear the world discuss how freedom of expression relates to responsibility, and how societies should behave in a situation when xenophobia, hatred and hostility emerge under its cover.

Estonia is among the world leaders in internet freedom. Those who enjoy this freedom and have turned it into their revenue stream often consider discussions about hate speech as attacks against themselves and as a restriction of a basic constitutional right - the freedom of speech and expression. At the same time it's no news that the comments in online media are flooded with indiscriminate language mostly due to the anonymity.

At the forum we asked what should be done to stop or restrict the spread of hate speech, and if we should, among other things, also consider updating the self-regulation of media, including for example the code of journalistic ethics.

The forum's keynote speech was given by Jordi Vaquer, the director of the Open Society Initiative for Europe, followed by a discussion of the situation in Europe with Abdul Turay, a popular columnist, Kristina Kallas, the head of the Estonian Refugee Council, and Neeme Raud, journalist of the Estonian Public Broadcasting.

In the second panel the IT visionary and chair of OEF's board Linnar Viik and media expert Raul Rebane weighed possible solutions for increasing tolerance in the internet, adding a bit of fresh statistics and a viewpoint from Finland presented by Paula Salovaara, the former editor-in-chief of Helsingin Sanomat.

The last panel brought together Anvar Samost, editor-in-chief of Postimees, Urmo Soonvald, editor-in-chief of EPL/Delfi, and professor Tiit Hennoste to discuss what steps Estonian media companies should make to restrict the spread of hate speech in the internet.

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