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Home >> Equinet Activities >> Events >> Seminar: Not on Our Watch – Equality Bodies fighting Hate Speech

Seminar: Not on Our Watch – Equality Bodies fighting Hate Speech

September 17th 2018

Location: Rome, Italy

On 19-21 November, the European Network of Equality Bodies (Equinet) and the National Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) will co-organise a two-and-a-half-day seminar to build the individual capacity of equality bodies’ staff members to deal with hate speech both on and off line. The seminar will focus on understanding the phenomenon of hate speech, as well as looking at how equality bodies can manage and prevent hate speech.

What is hate speech?

Illegal hate speech is defined in EU law as the public incitement to violence or hatred directed to groups or individuals on the basis of certain characteristics, including race, colour, religion, descent and national or ethnic origin.

There are different legal bases evident across Europe for addressing hate speech. These are: criminal law, misdemeanour law, civil law or administrative law. Each approach has its advantages and disadvantages and, in some countries hate speech is tackled in more than one of these legal spheres.

Definitions at national level focus on the issue of incitement of hatred across a wide range of grounds. The predominant grounds that are focused on are racial or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or gender expression, and religion. The 2008 Framework Decision of the EU Council on Racism and Xenophobia is useful with regard to definitions. Shared definitions of hate speech have been aided by jurisprudence within the European Court of Human Rights. However, there are still significant differences in the definition of hate speech and of sensitivity of the Courts to the issue across different countries.

Equality bodies tackling hate speech

A number of equality bodies have an explicit mandate in relation to hate speech. Other equality bodies interpret their mandate to include a focus on hate speech. This is enabled where the body is a multi-mandate body with a human rights mandate. Some equality bodies have no mandate to focus on hate speech. However, often these bodies find themselves dealing with hate speech in relation to addressing issues of harassment and sexual harassment as the borders between harassment and hate speech are not always clear cut. This holds a potential for equality bodies to act against certain types of hate speech even in the absence of a clear and specific mandate.

Seminar Objectives

The main objective of the Seminar is to build the individual capacity of equality bodies’ staff members to deal with hate speech both on and off line.
The seminar seeks to answer the following questions:

  • What is our understanding of the phenomenon of hate speech, including who carries it out, why and on what grounds?
  • How can equality bodies prevent hate speech via their systems, communication and policies, including training and recommendations for educators, media and policy makers, as well as by joining forces with various stakeholders?
  • What legal, policy and communication approaches help equality bodies to manage the phenomenon of hate speech once it has taken place?

Draft Agenda

Draft Agenda
Draft Agenda

(last updated 18/10/2018)


This Equinet seminar is dedicated to an audience of approximately 45 equality bodies’ staff members dealing with different aspects of hate speech. It allows for participation with different professional backgrounds, including legal, policy and communication. Participants will follow workshops according to their area of expertise and/or interest, but we aim to share knowledge across areas of expertise, to further develop the capacity of all staff members in all areas.

Please note that Equinet will cover the costs of travel and accommodation for one staff member per member organisation. A second staff member registering will be put on a waiting list and seats remaining will be allocated to people on the list based on a first come first served basis. You will find all information regarding flight or train booking in the registration form.

Please use the following form to register for the seminar by Friday, 19 October 2018.

Contact details

For inquiries regarding the seminar on combatting hate speech, please contact Sarah Cooke O’Dowd, Communication Officer by email: or telephone: +32 (0) 2 212 3184