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Racism online and in extremist groups: two key reports by a UN expert on contemporary forms of racism

NEW YORK (5 November 2012) – The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism, Mutuma Ruteere, called for greater cooperation between States, international bodies, private sector, civil society and local communities in against the promotion of racial, ethnic and xenophobic hatred on the Internet, and by extremist political parties, movements and groups.

In his first address to the UN General Assembly, Mr. Ruteere presented two key reports* respectively on Racism and the Internet, and the challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups.

Racism on the Internet

“The increase of extremist hate websites, the use of the Internet and social media by extremist groups and individuals to propagate hate speech and incite racial violence, and the increased number of incidents of racist violence and crimes prompted by racist content on the Internet remain to be address, despite the adoption of positive measures,” the human rights expert said.

The Special Rapporteur highlighted that combating racism on the Internet requires a comprehensive and cohesive approach developed through dialogue and consultation amongst different actors, including governments, civil society organisations, Internet service providers and the private sector in general.

In his view, States should adopt legislative measures and further examine the link between various manifestations of racism on the Internet and hate crimes committed. “Additional measures such as self- and co-regulatory initiatives developed by service providers and other relevant actors may also be useful in making efforts more effective,” Mr. Ruteere said.

“I believe that a possible way of countering racism on the Internet is through content diversification, in particular by promoting local content,” the expert said, inviting States to adopt concrete policies and strategies to make the Internet widely accessible and affordable to all. “Education about racist content on the Internet and awareness raising measures are also important tools.”

Mr. Ruteere emphasized, however, that any measures taken to counter racism on the Internet should comply with international human rights law and should not unduly limit the right to freedom of expression and opinion.

“Any restrictions, control and censorship of the content disseminated via the Internet should be done on a clearly defined legal basis and in a manner that is necessary, proportionate and compatible with States’ international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination,” he stated.

Extremist political parties, movements and groups

“A comprehensive approach based on a solid legal framework is essential,” the Special Rapporteur said while recalling that legislation has been adopted specifically to address the challenges posed by extremist political parties, movements and groups, and encouraging States to close gaps by adopting the necessary legislation.

The expert urged world governments to guarantee the right to security and access to justice without discrimination to vulnerable groups who are victims of racist and xenophobic attacks by extremist groups or individuals.

“Complementary measures should be implemented to tackle extremist political parties, movements and groups,” Mr. Ruteere said. He encouraged States to strengthen the implementation of awareness raising activities aimed at fostering tolerance, to sensitize youth on the dangers of ideologies and activities of extremist political parties, movements and groups, and to strengthen State agents’ capacity to address racist crimes through human rights trainings.

“Cooperation with all the relevant actors, including civil society, is crucial to effectively prevent the rise and dissemination of extremist ideologies based on racial superiority,” the Special Rapporteur stressed, recalling the responsibility of political leaders and parties in condemning and refraining from disseminating messages that scapegoat vulnerable groups and incite racial discrimination, and highlighted the key role that media can play in fighting racism and intolerance.

Mr. Mutuma Ruteere (Kenya) was designated by the Human Rights Council as Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in October 2011. He is independent from any government or organization and serves in his individual capacity. Learn more, log on to: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/racism/rapporteur/index.htm

(*) Check the reports:
Racism on the Internet: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/469/82/PDF/N1246982.pdf?OpenElement or http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/67/documentslist.shtml
Extremist political parties, movements and groups: http://daccess-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N12/470/32/PDF/N1247032.pdf?OpenElement or http://www.un.org/en/ga/third/67/documentslist.shtml

Watch the Special Rapporteur discussing his report on extremist groups: http://youtu.be/wahzx4kxvwQ

For more information and media requests please contact:
In New York: Fred Kirungi (+1 917 367 3431 / kirungi@un.org)
In Geneva: Kellie-Shandra Ognimba (+41 22 917 92 68 / kognimba@ohchr.org) or write to racism@ohchr.org.

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