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Public Attitudes towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria in 2016

 

July 2016

 

Hate speech is a common and permanently established phenomenon in the Bulgarian public environment. In 2016 the prevalence of this phenomenon has been expanding compared to 2013 and 2014, while the willingness of society to resist it has been declining. In the last 4 years the share of respondents who reported that they had heard statements expressing disapproval, hatred or aggression towards members of minority groups has increased from 46% to 58%. The Roma are most often reported to be victims of hate speech. However, the share of respondents who have heard over the last year statements expressing disapproval, hatred or aggression against Muslims has also significantly increased from 11% in 2014 to 38% in 2016.
 
These are the findings of the nationally representative survey carried out by Open Society Institute – Sofia in the period 22 April – 13 May 2016 that were presented to the participants in the conference on “The Role of Civil Society to counteract Hate Speech: Reflections on Achieved Results and Communicating Lessons Learned” that took place as part of the annual meeting of the NGO Program in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the EEA.

The survey shows that the television remains the most influential media with which people associate the spread of hate speech. Three quarters of the respondents who have heard hate speech in the last year, have heard it from television. At the same time the role of the Internet has increased significantly compared to the findings of the surveys from 2013 and 2014. The Internet has become in fact the second most important medium for spread of hate speech.
 
Public approval of the use in traditional media of statements of extreme nationalism and hate speech against the Roma and migrants has also increased. At the same time the share of respondents who are aware that certain forms of hate speech are punishable by law as a crime has dropped. What is more, the willingness of citizens to report to the competent authorities the use of hate speech they witnessed has remained low. In the last 3 years the number of people who do not approve of the use of hate speech in the public space has also dropped from 85 % in 2014 to 74 % in 2016.
 
Despite these negative tendencies the majority of the respondents, almost three quarters of them, disapprove of the public use of hate speech and almost half of the respondents believe that the State should protect the members of minority groups against hate speech; 59% agree that journalists and politicians who express disapproval, hatred or aggression against members of minority groups should be prosecuted and 65% agree that aggressive nationalism should also be prosecuted. The findings also show that a considerable majority of the respondents (63%) believe that the State should limit public funding for political parties whose leaders use hate speech towards members of minority groups. Similar share of respondents (58%) agree with the proposal to suspend the access of the media disseminating hate speech to national and European public funding. The last two measures have been expressly recommended to the member states of the Council of Europe by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) (Recommendation No 15 of 8 December 2015).
 
The authors of the survey point out the pressing need to develop and implement a national policy to curb and counteract hate speech. Without such policy, there is a growing risk of escalating discrimination against the most affected social groups (the Roma, Muslims, Turks, foreigners and LGBTI) and escalation of hate crimes.

Full text of the report "Public Attitudes towards Hate Speech in Bulgaria in 2016" is available here.
 
About the survey:

The survey of the Open Society Institute – Sofia was carried out in the period 22 April – 13 May 2016. It is the third survey in a series of studies carried out by the Institute on the subject and the previous two surveys were conducted in 2013 and 2014. The reports from the three surveys are available in Bulgarian and English on the website of the Open Society Institute – www.osi.bg

The survey was financed by the Complimentary actions Fund of the NGO Program in Bulgaria under the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area 2009-2014. The views and opinions expressed in this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and should by no means be interpreted as reflecting the standpoint of the donor countries or the Financial Mechanism of the European Economic Area.
©2009 Open Society Institute - Sofia