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“We Have a Lot of Evidence that Hate Speech Can Exist, that it is Different from Freedom of Expression,” OHCHR Chief Michelle Bachelet

Michelle Bachelet, United Nation High Commissioner for Human Rights, speaks at the meeting by the United Nations LGBTI Core Group with on the theme “Ending hate speech against LGBTI people in social and traditional media: Freedom of speech vs. license to hate?”. The meeting took place in conjunction with the general debate of the seventy-fourth session of the General Assembly on 24 September 2019~ UN Photo by Rick Bajornas

At a meeting of the LGBTI Core Group at the United Nations on 24 September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet expressed concern about growing rhetoric on the part of political leaders using homophobic language to advance their agendas, and stressed that hate speech cannot be equated with freedom of expression, lest it undermine human dignity and even human lives.

The theme of the event was, “Ending Hate Speech against LGBT People in Social and Traditional Media – Freedom of Speech vs. License to Hate.”

Bachelet expressed concern about political leaders singling out individuals and groups for messages of hate. “I think this is happening a lot, particularly in the context of electoral or referendum campaigns where political parties and politicians as part of their agenda appeal to misogynist, homophobic or xenophobic sentiments.” 

She said, “We have a lot of evidence that hate speech can exist, that it is different from freedom of expression. There’s a clear definition of what is what and we need to consider that this is unacceptable. And we need to fight strongly against it because really it is undermining people’s dignity, people’s possibilities and even people’s lives.”

The Foreign Minister of Norway, Ine Eriksen Søreide, said, “I think we have a momentum where we can actually do something; where we can turn off the hate, where we can turn on the love. When we are able to fight hatred and the culture of fear. If we can do it in this room, I think we have a fair chance of success.” 

The United Nations LGBTI Core Group is an informal cross regional group of United Nations Member States established in 2008. Its overarching goal is to work within the United Nations framework on ensuring universal respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms for all, specifically lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons, with a particular focus on protection from violence and discrimination~UNIFEED

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