Everyone has the right to freedom of expression and information. But that right is not absolute. Еvery right is accompanied with an obligation of responsibility. The language used among the public is one of the most important tools that have a strategic importance in dealing with hate speech and discrimination, in addition to legislation. That should be the starting point for the strategy of dealing with hate speech.

The right to freedom of expression is one of the most important human rights. This right integrates: the right to freely distribute information containing facts or value judgments, and the right to receive information, i.e. the right of the public to be informed.

The right to free expression is the most significant benefit in terms of human freedoms. It is a direct reflection of the human person. Without its respect, there is no democracy. In certain situations, the fulfillment of this right may have the effect of challenging the functionality of another right, which is equally important – the right to protection of the person. In this regard, the right to free expression is not an absolute right.

The media play a very important role in considering the key aspects that cover these rights, especially due to the fact that they are important in creating a democratic culture. Democratic culture is broader than any political system. Due to that fact, the role played by the media is important. They help the public be informed. In this regard, the ongoing debates are crucial. The dialogue that takes place through the media, no matter what form of media it is – traditional or online, must flow responsibly, with all considerations of the ethical framework. It must be emphasized that both media that contribute to following the dialogue and actors who lead that dialogue are important, as well as the institutions and citizens. The digital age offers many opportunities for the rapid travel of information in the exercise of freedom of speech and information, and at no time should the responsibility imposed by the basic principles of journalistic work and ethical journalism be left out.

Digital media today enable anyone to become a potential journalist. But the facts show that, by using this opportunity, many violate the ethical standards of professional journalistic reporting. This is not only a local, but also a global trend. In this regard, when we talk about all these aspects, it is very important to ensure that respect for the right to freedom of expression does not cause violations of other rights. The legislation must provide all the conditions to enable the respect of the right to free expression on the one hand, but also to enable non-acceptance of hate speech and offensive language to become an acceptable form of communication.


There is no universal definition of hate speech, but in terminological terms it encompasses any form of expression that promotes hatred towards one or more persons because of their personal characteristics or belonging to a particular group or community.

The Council of Europe in its recommendations contained in the Report published in 2017, puts hate speech and discrimination in the category of mal-information, i.e. harmful information.

According to the report, information disorders are categorized into three categories:

  • Misunderstanding – Misunderstanding or misinformation is a mistake in conveying the news, without intentional manipulation. This category refers to information with a wrong context, misinterpreted or incompletely conveyed information;
  • Disinformation – Deliberate, conscious or intentional manipulation in order to cause harm. This category includes information of a manipulative nature, fabricated information, clickbait, spin, deliberate mixing of true and false information, wrong context, mixing comment with information, completely false information, fabricated information, pseudoscience, etc;
  • Harmful information – knowingly abusing certain information that could cause harm. Hate speech, discrimination and data that are private and leaked to the public in order to cause harm are types of harmful information.

The authors of this report include these three terms in defining “fake news”, but emphasize that it is “important to distinguish between messages that are” true “and those that are” fake “, as well as messages that are created, produced or distributed by “actors” who intend to cause harm.

In the Crime Code, “hate speech” is precisely regulated from a criminal point of view.

Article 122, line 42

“Hate crime explicitly provided by the provisions of this Code is considered a crime against a natural or legal person and persons related to them or property that is committed in whole or in part due to real or presumed (imagined, conceived) characteristic or connection of the person “relating to race, skin color, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, mental or physical disability, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation and political belief.”

Hate speech is an emotional expression, degrading, intimidating, inciting hatred, violence and / or discrimination against an individual or a group. Hate speech creates a sense of contempt and stereotyping based on negative connotations of persons or groups or their characteristics. Hate speech works creates and spreads discrimination, threats, fear and hatred. Hate speech and discrimination pose a threat to democratic processes and social values. With the help of digitalization, it can cause conflicts locally, regionally and globally, which affect citizens and decision-making processes.

When analyzing hate speech and discrimination, several aspects are important:

  • The purpose, i.e. the intention: is it a deliberate dissemination of racist ideas or is it an attempt to inform the public about public issues;
  • the content of the speech;
  • context – what led to the speech, through which media, to which audience, political, social and economic situation and conditions;
  • who is the person responsible for expressing hate speech. Many people can be generators of hate speech, such as journalists and editors, but also politicians or elected officials, religious leaders and leaders, etc.;
  • the effect that speech has on the public, i.e. the precise differentiation of speech from a simple discussion between two people, to a communication that involves many who will help in further distribution and influence the public

Many criminal laws in Europe ban hate speech, treating it as a crime.


Statistical figures indicate that there is a declining trend in hate speech in traditional media. But, unlike these media, hate speech is intensely present through online media and social networks. Comments on social media posts are also an important part of this issue.

The President of the Press Complaints Commission of CMEM, Mirce Adamcevski at the debate “Hate speech and discriminatory practices in media reporting – how far are we?”, Informed that the number of press complaints related to Article 10 of the Code of Journalists shows a declining trend in traditional media. In 2014 there were 28.8% adjudications related to the press complaints for this article, in 2019, the percentage decreased to 20%, and this year as of August, there are only 5% or 4 adjudications. He stressed that, at the expense of traditional media, the violation of Article 10 in online media shows progressive growth. According to him, this issue is especially emphasized in the period of dealing with the crisis caused by Covid-19. In 2019, the Network for Addressing Hate Speech in the Media was established, initiated and coordinated by the Council of Media Ethics of Macedonia. Adamcevski announced the preparation of a Code of Ethics for Online Media Reporting, which will be preceded by a detailed analysis.

Emilija Petreska-Kamenjarova from the Department of Human Rights and Media Literacy at the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services mentioned several examples that have influenced the treatment of hate speech through digital platforms.

The case of Delphi AS in the European Court of Human Rights has exposed the responsibility of online media in terms of comments made by users through social networks. The court in this case concluded that the intervention in the right to expression was in accordance with the law and that hate speech expressed in the comments of users did not enjoy the protection of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. An important aspect of this decision is the fact that the Court rejected the arguments of the publishers of the company “Delphi”, which operated one of the largest media portals in Estonia. Namely, they stated that the role of the portal as a provider of information services and data storage is only technical, i.e. passive and neutral. The court considers that even though “Delphi” was not the author of such comments, it does not mean that it had no control over the space in which the comments were created.

The speakers at the debate concluded that hate speech and discrimination are strongly present on social networks, especially through the user generated comments under the content published by both traditional and online media. This issue strongly penetrates both in our country and in the Balkan region. Newsrooms often distance themselves, pointing out that they do not have enough resources to respond to comments on digital platforms. It certainly does not absolve them of responsibility. In addition to limited resources, the factors that influence the culture of speech when commenting through digital platforms are sensationalism, but also the lack of privacy.

The legislative framework of the Republic of Northern Macedonia, which detects and should sanction hate speech, is harmonized with international standards and documents. There is only one court ruling in the country related to hate speech, and that is a serious problem.

The only verdict so far in the country is related to the status posted on the social network Facebook. Namely, the actor Toni Mihajlovski received a suspended sentence for the threat made on Facebook to the journalist Branko Trickovski in which he wrote that he would kill him without blinking an eye. The Basic Public Prosecutor’s Office in Skopje filed charges against the actor who pleaded guilty and apologized to the journalist for the threats.

Tolerating hate speech is a flammable spark. This momentum indicates that there is a problem in not recognizing hate speech as a socially dangerous phenomenon, which could cause negative consequences, i.e. acts of hatred. Dealing with hate speech requires strong commitment and responsibility. Many actors are important in this process, including media associations, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the media, and the citizens themselves.

Scroll to Top