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Non-governmental organisations appeal to Pope Francis

Between 25 and 31 July 2016 Pope Francis will be visiting Poland to take part in the World Youth Day. It will be an opportunity to send out a message of peace, toleration and respect. The words spoken by Pope during the event will be especially important for the young pilgrims.

On the initiative of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, 40 Polish non-governmental organisations asked Pope to talk about hate speech during his meetings with the youth. The statement of the organisations emphasised that being liability for speech is one of the key challenges of the modern world. The freedom of expression guaranteed under Article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Poland and Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights also entails such liability. However, hate speech is not afforded any legal protection. Counteracting hate speech must involve not only legal remedies or litigation but also – and most importantly – educational actions. The words of the Pontiff can play such a role.

Most frequently, it is young people who are both the authors and victims of hate speech, in the real world and online. According to a study carried out by the “No Hate” campaign of the Council of Europe, in 2015 as much as 83% of young respondents came across hate speech on the Internet. In Poland, almost two-thirds of youth had contact with anti-Semitic hate speech online. A similar percentage of the surveyed were able to access racist, anti-Roma or homophobic content. According to research mentioned in the NGOs’ statement, young people are significantly exposed to online abuse.

The authors of the statement stressed that condemnation of hate speech during the World Youth Day will have serious educational implications and may in time lead to a situation where the Internet is a safe place for the youth to share ideas and find information. The words of Pope may hold back the physical aggression caused by hate speech, reads the statement.

The letter is available for reading here.


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