The Malta Independent 21 May 2022, Saturday

Legislation not enough to combat hate speech, education is most powerful tool - Owen Bonnici

Gabriel Schembri Friday, 7 April 2017, 10:10 Last update: about 6 years ago

Minister for Justice Owen Bonnici said that the government can do a lot to combat hate speech through laws, but legislation is not enough to stop this horrible crime. He said that hate speech should be fought with a more powerful tool, education.

Opening a Maltese Presidency Conference on hate speech online, Minister Owen Bonnici said that the young should be thought about respect and tolerance. "We need to teach our society that though we might be different, we can still be united in diversity."

He said that society today is immersed in technology to make our lives easier, but sometimes more stressful. He said that there are a lot of positive things which exists thanks to technology, but this should not repel our human factor.

"Not every opinion is intended to do good and we need to distinguish between a different opinion and hate speech," he added.

Dr Bonnici said that the youths should not be forgotten as they are the ones who are mostly in touch with technology.

At the same conference, Attorney General Peter Grech also suggested that prosecuting hate speech was no enough and that it must be countered with a positive alternative.

"Extremist views would need to be countered by messages that offer a positive alternative, which challenges extremist ideologies and deconstructs racist and xenophobic narratives," he said.

He went on to say that the rise in xenophobic sentiment across Europe was also pervasive in Malta due to the unprecedented arrival of migrants over last decade.

In fact, he said, according to a Eurobarometer study 46% of Maltese people believe that immigration was the most important issue facing the country.

He made reference far-right political party campaigns including Moviment Patrijotti Maltin's infamous pork sandwich handout in Msida, and the same party's protest against a Mosque in Bugibba.

These incidents, he claimed, often entered the social media landscape but maintained that the country has supported the fight against all forms of hate crime, referencing a case where two people were fined €3,000 each for inciting hatred on Facebook.



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