On 28 September 2023, the Council of Europe Inter-Parliamentary Co-operation and Parliamentary Projects Support Division, in cooperation with the Houses of the Oireachtas organised a pre-conference event at the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament focusing on “Hate speech and threats of violence against elected representatives”.
Speakers of parliament from around Europe urged greater action against hate speech and violence against elected representatives - a phenomenon which, many felt, may ultimately threaten democracy.
Participants heard personal testimony of verbal abuse and harassment – both online and offline – as well as intimidation, physical attacks and threats of serious violence on elected representatives.
Topics discussed at the event, included how to increase security for MPs, measures to reduce online hate speech against elected representatives, promoting greater civility in public discourse and responsibility of the media, in particular social media, and the need for political opponents to maintain mutual respect and understanding, even in polarised environments. There was general agreement on the need for solidarity, policy and legal measures to be in place and ensure that perpetrators of hate speech and violence against elected representatives are held accountable.
In a wide-ranging discussion, participants were encouraged to continue the conversation, to “put their thinking caps on” to come up with solutions to these problems, while respecting freedom of expression, so that parliamentarians, elected representative and aspiring politicians are able to carry out their work safely and securely and contribute to democratic processes.
The conclusions of the European Conference of Presidents of Parliament recalled the importance of further action in this regard: “Inspired by the pre-conference event on hate speech and threats of violence against elected representatives, and the Parliamentary Assembly’s initiative #NotInMyParliament, we agree that it is a priority for us all to combat this scourge, which is a deterrent for many to participate in public life. We need to show the lead in a concerted effort, involving all stakeholders including political parties, law enforcement agencies and the media, especially social media. The Parliamentary Assembly’s new Charter of European political parties for a nonracist and inclusive society is another tool for us as politicians.”