Hate speech, human rights combat, young activists and initiatives, freedom of expression and anti-discrimination – these were the most frequently used terms at the Hate Speech Fair on 29th October in Bratislava, during the pre-event to Agora Budapest titled Brighten your Horizons. The event, organised in cooperation with the Council of Europe, encouraged members of AEGEE and other young people to join the campaign Young People Combating Hate Speech Online, and inform them about the presence of hate speech crimes in Europe.
The event’s thematic concept brought fruitful results. Denisa Samková from Ternype, the association of Roma youth, as well as Juliet Christmann and Seamus Campbell, two EVS volunteers from People in Need, a human rights focused NGO, actively contributed to the programme. “It is a great inspiration for me to see your members engaged in human rights issues,” said Denisa. “Marginalised youth in Slovakia is very often a target for different extremist groups, and similar events can bring a new turn to this combat,” she added. Juliet and Seamus confirmed her words. “We are both happy that we accepted the invitation to the event. We had not only the chance to exchange our experiences in this field, but also to deepen our own knowledge on hate speech crimes.”
Hate Speech Fair opened the discussion between various multipliers of human rights in Slovakia. People in Need association expressed their concern of humanitarian and development aid, social integration and community work with marginalised youth in rural parts of Slovakia. Mr. František Pálka from AGORA – Direct democracy explained why the consolidation of democratic society is still in progress. Mr. Tomáš Foeldes from Human Rights gave many new ideas to the Human Rights Working Group for their future work, and presented a mostly educative approach to combating human rights crimes in Europe.
Networking and raising awareness about hate speech crimes in various countries was put in the centre of the Fair. The presence of our guest, Mrs. Mária Ripomská, member of the Slovak National Parliament confirmed that freedom of expression is not only a concern of young people and activist, but it is an important point on the governmental agenda as well. Moreover, as she explained, there is a space for discussion between young people and governmental bodies about the ways for creating and equal, democratic society. Her interest in our event should encourage us to organise similar actions in the future, as these are necessary to contribute creating a society with equal opportunities that we wish to live in.
The event organised by the Human Rights Working Group of AEGEE-Europe and AEGEE-Bratislava resulted not only in a successful cooperation between AEGEE bodies, but showed the importance and openness of AEGEE to external cooperation. Learning from this lesson, we can conclude that similar events are needed, and essential to prevent hate speech violations happening in any country.
Written by Lucia Sobeková, AEGEE-Bratislava, member of Human Rights Working Group
Photos courtesy of Aneta Caltová from AEGEE-Plzen and Dasha Onkhova from AEGEE-Moskva