Hate speech: A five-point test

June 12, 2017
A translation for this article is available in French

Radio and newspapers are a great way for people and organizations to get their message across. But they place journalists and broadcasters on the frontlines of deciding what can—and should be—publicly shared. For example, if someone says something racist or homophobic on air, broadcasters have an opportunity to voice disapproval of such statements or to counter them with positive facts. Journalists can choose to simply not share derogatory speech.

How can journalists and others define, identify, and respond to hate speech? The Ethical Journalism Network has prepared a guide to this topic, a document which includes a five-point test to identify hate speech.

The motto of the Ethical Journalism Network’s hate speech campaign is: “Don’t sensationalize. Avoid the rush to publish. Take a moment of reflection.”

To that end, the five-point test asks journalists to think about:

  • - the position or status of the speaker (e.g., politician making statement vs. private individual);
  • - the reach of the speech (e.g., public vs. private conversation);
  • - the objectives of the speech (e.g., who benefits and who are the victims);
  • - the content and form of the speech and its potential impact; and
  • - the economic, social, and political climate.

Journalists can avoid publishing harmful speech by considering these elements before publishing or broadcasting.

You can view this resource at: http://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org/resources/publications/hate-speech