When Media is used to Incite Violence

The United Nations, Genocide, and Atrocity Crimes

Authored by: Adama Dieng , Simona Cruciani

The Routledge Companion To Media and Humanitarian Action

Print publication date:  September  2017
Online publication date:  September  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138688575
eBook ISBN: 9781315538129
Adobe ISBN:


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In an age when humanity is confronted with atrocity crimes and genocide against civilians in many parts of the world, including gender-based violence against women and children, this chapter grapples with the terms, language, discourses, inflammatory rhetoric and propaganda campaigns that have come to be identified as hate speech. Incitement is a very dangerous form of hate speech that can trigger violence and, in some instances, atrocity crimes.A survey of historical cases worldwide demonstrates that hate speech and incitement have paved the way for atrocity crimes, including genocide. This chapter discusses the conditions and circumstances in which hate speech has led to incitement to violence, genocide and atrocity crimes. Genocide cannot be explained as an isolated or spontaneous event—indeed, it takes time to plan, coordinate and implement. In most cases, the media have been used to disseminate and multiply hateful and discriminatory messages to achieve violence more rapidly and massively. But how can this virulent form of speech be neutralized? We conclude by discussing the many initiatives within the United Nations system aimed at countering hate speech and incitement, underscoring how seriously the organization takes this often deadly form of expression.

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