Hate Speech and Euroscepticism in Bulgaria
PUBLISHERMulti Kulti Collective
YEAR OF PUBLICATION
FUNDINGEuropean Commission, Europe for Citizens Programme
Hate speech is a phenomenon which has been permanently present in Bulgarian society in the last decade. Studies show that it even has been normalised and became an integral part of both private and public life. Roma people remain the leading victim of hate speech, currently followed by LGBT+ people, Turkish people and Muslims. The dynamics change due to national and international events, including election campaigns, and current public debates. The roles of different types of media are changing in the last few years. Television is still the biggest source of hate speech but its role, together with newspapers and radio, is decreasing. However, the role of the Internet doubled between 2013 and 2018. Hate speech found in shops, café, restaurants, public transport and the workplace has also increased slightly. A considerable majority of citizens (77% in 2018) disapprove the use of public statements expressing disapproval, hatred or aggression towards representatives of ethnic, religious or sexual minorities. The more educated people are, the more likely they are to recognize hate speech.
In the last decade, Bulgaria has seen the rise of several political movements that make use of hate speech to garner Eurosceptic views. To some extent, they had electoral success, gaining seats in the European parliament and even making it to the government. However, political scandals have diminished their success in recent years. Nevertheless, support for the EU remains strong in Bulgarian public opinion. Trust in EU institutions is systematically higher than trust in national institutions and the EU is seen as a guarantor of democracy and stability. Combating hate speech is therefore crucial to maintain public support for European values and institutions.
Based on the research, some recommendations are made:
- The term “hate speech” should be defined in the national legislation.
- The groups which are protected against hate speech by the Penal code should be expanded beyond “race, nationality and ethnicity” and include religion, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and gender identity.
- A national anti-hate speech strategy should be developed, financed, implemented and regularly monitored.
- Enforcement of legal prohibitions of hate speech by investigation and prosecution of infringements of this legislation. A more efficient judiciary can strengthen the feeling of trust by affected minority groups, so that they would more easily report cases.
- The appointment of members of the Commission for Protection Against Discrimination should be based on their professional competencies, and not on political quotas. This would make them more independent from the executive power.
- The capacity of the responsible national institutions has to be strengthened through training, in order for them to more effectively recognize and combat hate speech.
- Political leaders and media should particularly be held accountable for their use of hate speech.
- Large-scale awareness-raising campaigns have to be realised, both on national and local level in order to increase the information about the phenomenon and build social resilience.
- Education efforts need to be put, both formal and informal, to increase the knowledge about hate speech among teachers, students, journalists, and other professionals.
- A multi-stakeholder approach including policy makers, police, schools, civil society, and media needs to be adopted to create more synergies.
- Political parties, institutions and media which use hate speech should be deprived from national and local-level funding.
- State-funded legal and psychological support should be offered to the victims of hate speech.
- Investment in further research should be made in order to monitor the judicial practice; dynamics of hate speech use among various groups in society and media; and highlight best practices, including from other EU countries.