Who is fuelling inter-ethnic problems in the Crimea?
Improper utterances in the press, ethnic and religious insults are not only the source of negative emotions, but can in the end lead to outbursts of violence. Such problems are particularly acute in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea where relations between the Slavonic majority and repatriated Crimean Tatars sometimes spill out into conflict, moving from the pages of a newspaper to the streets. Specialists from the Kyiv Association of Middle East Studies [AMES] are endeavouring to prevent an escalation of this conflict through the media. There have been plenty of examples where Crimean media outlets did not only fail to promote resolution of inter-ethnic conflict, but actually poured fuel on the fire. One such example was the incident over a cross in 2000 when in the Morske settlement near Sudak Crimean Tatars pulled down a cross erected on a site sacred for Muslims. On that occasion the conflict almost got out of hand and a lot of time and effort was needed to diffuse it. At that time the Russian language press was full of intolerance and insults addressed at the Crimean Tatars and seriously exacerbated the tension.
Specialists from AMES say that this and similar examples show how widespread the use of “hate speech” is in the Crimean media, with language used to form models and practice of social inequality.
In order to change this trend, AMES is planning a number of seminars for Crimean journalists. The seminars will be based on special examples from newspaper publications. Their aim is to clearly demonstrate the harmfulness of material written with the use of “hate speech”.
The media is part of the problem
In explaining the need for such work, the Director of AMES Oleksandr Bohomolov described the present state of the Crimean media in the following terms: “Even a superficial analysis shows that they are less about informing the public and more an actual part of the problem. They convey negative messages, the stereotypes of one community with regard to another. When talking about the Crimean Tatars, for example, the Russian-language media is simply teeming with various types of stereotypes. The audience, depending of course on their level of awareness and knowledge, responds perhaps in different ways. Yet when you are effectively bombarded with this sort of message all the time, you cant fail to not be adversely affected by it and it leads to an increased potential for conflict”.
The specialists are aware that their initiative will not make immediate changes in the Crimean media realm. However they believe it important to at least draw journalists attention to the problem of negative influences of some publications on inter-ethnic harmony in the region. They hope that soon their initiative will generate discussion in Crimean society which will help resolve the problem.
“Hate speech” is a nationwide problem
The existence of biased publications and “hate speech” in the media is not only a Crimean problem, journalist and member of Amnesty International in Ukraine Maxim Butkevych stresses. “Hate speech” is used systematically and is fairly widespread in the Ukrainian media, both print and electronic. Yet the main problem is more that journalists are not even aware of it as a problem. The very concept of “hate speech” has yet to take root and a lot of journalists simply dont realize its importance. The understanding is perhaps lacking that people bear responsibility for the stereotypes they generate”.
Maxim Butkevych believes that sometimes unverified information or careless language lead not only to negative emotions, but to violence. This is something lot of journalists fail to understand.