PRESS RELEASE: Volunteers combating online and offline hate speech against Roma
Sofia, 17 May 2022: A project to tackle online hate speech against Roma in Bulgaria was launched today by the Equal Opportunities Association and the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC). The project is part of a European Union funded initiative by the ERRC to directly challenge and litigate online hate speech in Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Romania and will engage Roma and non-Roma volunteers to report online hate and help bring legal complaints. The initiative will run until 2024 and aims to bring direct legal challenges against those who allow hate speech to flourish against Roma online.
The widespread phenomenon of online hate speech is negatively impacting society in Bulgaria. Different social and ethnic groups are often the focus of hate based on their personal background. Data revealed by Equal Opportunities Association from August 2021 shows that sensitivity toward online use of anti-Roma hate speech is largely decreasing, and an increasing amount of online hate speech targeting Roma, especially in times of political and economic crisis, is observed.
In that regard, at an online conference held on May 17, 2022 the European Roma Rights Centre, in partnership with Equal Opportunities Association, Bulgaria, the Forum for Human Rights, Slovakia and Roma JUST, Romania launched an initiative aiming to challenge digital antigypsyism. Participants at the opening event were representatives of the Ombudsperson of the Republic of Bulgaria, Commission for protection against discrimination, Commission for journalistic ethics, and other prominent civil society organizations. The project aims to combat online and offline hate speech on a European level, and in the next 24 months with the support of European Commission Citizens, Equality, Rights and Values Programme (CERV-2021-EQUAL) will work toward increasing rights awareness among Roma communities about online hate speech and incitement to discrimination, as well as empowering hate speech victims to bring complaints to justice institutions about violations of their fundamental human rights.