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Speech by H.E. Vincent Guérend, the EU Ambassador to Indonesia, at the EU-Indonesia Seminar on Addressing Hate Speech and Disinformation with a Rights-Based Approach
Jakarta, 17 October 2018
My dear colleague Pak Achsanul Habib, Director for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs at the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Ladies and Gentleman,
It is a great pleasure to be here today to open the EU-Indonesia Seminar on "Addressing Hate Speech and Disinformation with a Rights-Based Approach".
This seminar was agreed at the 7th session of the EU-Indonesia Human Rights Dialogue on 1st February this year. The event today illustrates the partnership and close cooperation between Indonesia and the EU in promoting and protecting Human Rights.
The aim of the Seminar is to facilitate an in-depth discussion on how to tackle hate speech or disinformation while fully respecting human rights and democratic freedoms. We are very glad to have assembled here an exceptional group of experts and practitioners from Indonesia and the EU, from government, media, private sector and civil society, to share knowledge, experiences and best practices.
The debate about how best to regulate hate speech and disinformation is changing and developing fast. I am certain that we can all learn from each other’s experiences and an exchange of views among friends and partners.
The EU is facing major challenges related to the dissemination of hate speech and disinformation. We have been witnessing cases of hate speech against immigrants and refugees, fear of manipulation of election processes, or discussions about the impact of online messages in the adoption of decisions like the Brexit referendum.
Indonesia is facing similar issues: incitement of hostility and violence, expressions of inter-communal hatred, or dissemination of hoaxes and other forms of misinformation.
We can see these trends in almost all parts of the world. But generally speaking, these trends are closely linked to the enormous growth of internet users in the last two decades and the emergence of new tools to communicate and disseminate messages and information. We have moved from a traditional media and communication system to a heavily decentralised system in which all sorts of ideas, messages and opinions can be distributed easily and quickly to a large audience.
Tackling the dissemination of hate speech or disinformation in this new environment is particularly challenging and subject of an ongoing debate in Europe and other parts of the world. It is, however, absolutely essential that human rights and democratic freedoms remain at the heart of this discussion, that freedom of expression and freedom of the press remain untouched.
The EU is firmly committed to the protection of freedom of expression and freedom of information. These are two basic human rights which enjoy the highest level of protection and promotion within the framework of the EU legal system. All EU Member States and Indonesia are parties to international instruments recognising and protecting such rights, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. At regional level EU Member States are also bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of fundamental rights.
The EU is also promoting the effective and proper protection of such rights beyond the EU borders. In this sense, the EU has adopted important criteria and principles to guide and assist states in the creation of the best legal and institutional framework for the exercise of the freedom of expression.
The existence of a free, diverse and independent media as well as an open flow of information, ideas and opinions is a basic pre-condition for a robust, democratic and diverse society. In this context the European system gives particular protection to the work of journalists and media, as they play a fundamental role scrutinising the performance of governments and public institutions.
Within this general framework I would like to highlight several initiatives by the EU to tackle hate speech and disinformation.
In January 2018 the European Commission convened the so-called High-Level Expert Group to advise the European Commission on fake news and disinformation online. In March the Group publicly issued its report “A multi-dimensional approach to disinformation” and issued a number of recommendations which were the basis for the adoption of a Communication of the European Commission on tackling online disinformation, issued at the end of April. This will be discussed in more detail in this seminar.
I would also like to underscore the fact that just a few weeks ago representatives of online platforms, leading social networks, advertisers and advertising industry agreed on a self-regulatory Code of Practice to address the spread of online disinformation and fake news. This is the first time worldwide that the industry agrees, on a voluntary basis, to self-regulatory standards to fight disinformation.
On hate speech, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and the EU signed in May 2016 the Code of Conduct on Countering Illegal Hate Speech Online. The four companies committed to reviewing – and when necessary removing – illegal hate speech within 24 hours of receiving a report.
I am sure that all these developments, initiatives and standards will be discussed in the course of the seminar. From the EU side we look forward to learning from the Indonesian experience and hope to identify elements for future cooperation and exchange.
Before closing I would like to thank all speakers and participants for their input and active participation in the coming two days. Thank you also to Media4Democracy, an EU-funded technical assistance facility that has helped designing this event, and our public outreach programme. Lastly, I wish to express my gratitude and appreciation for the excellent collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Indonesia in organising this seminar.
Thank you and I wish you a fruitful and enlightening two days.