GAAMAC report: Preventing Hate Speech, Incitement, And Discrimination – Lessons On Promoting Tolerance And Respect For Diversity In The Asia Pacific

29 November 2021

Hate speech and incitement to violence, when tolerated or promoted by political and religious leaders, are significant risk factors for atrocities. For this reason, the GAAMAC Asia Pacific Study Group has focused its research on the prevention of hate speech, both online and offline.

As in many parts of the world, the Asia-Pacific region has experienced the rise of populist and militarised governments, coinciding with a rise in hate speech and incitement to violence. The persecution of ethnic and religious minorities persists in many countries in the region, and the covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated many underlying tensions that has lowered tolerance and respect.

GAAMAC’s report “Preventing Hate Speech and Discrimination: Lessons on Promoting Tolerance and Respect for Diversity in the Asia Pacific” provides an in-depth study of the current drivers and dynamics of hate speech in the region, with case studies from Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and Pakistan. The report presents findings and recommendations, and is an important resource for the international atrocity prevention community to better understand how to identify and address hate speech and incitement across a range of social and political contexts.

The objectives of the case studies are to:

  • Identify state and civil society preventive action and/or responses to hate speech and incitement;
  • Examine the strengths and weaknesses of the identified preventive actions in containing the influence of hate speech;
  • Develop a set of recommendations for states and civil society groups in the Asia Pacific in creating or enhancing their home-grown action plans; and
  • Develop a set of recommendations for international and regional organisations, to consider in pursuit of a regional action plan.

Read the full report or jump to the chapters on Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India or Pakistan.

Common patterns of hate speech and incitement in the region

In its conclusion, the report identifies five broad patterns that are common to all six case studies:

First, legacies of impunity for historical injustices perpetuate cycles of discriminatory attitudes and violence. Historical narratives generate the perception of threat to justify and rationalise hate speech and language that incites violence.

Second, the institutional arrangement of governance and legal frameworks within the country also determines whether the context is conducive to hate speech, and whether the government has the capacity to mitigate the escalation of hate speech into incitement and acts of violence.

Third, the report shows that non-state actors, such as NGOs and faith-based communities, can be crucial actors in mitigating and de-escalating hate speech. However, their ability to manoeuvre and influence social outcomes is contingent on the broader political context. International actors have limited scope to change the internal dynamics of inter-group conflicts and discrimination.

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