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Guterres Accuses Leaders of “Liberal Democracies” of Engendering Hate Speech

The UN Secretary General states that there are “political leaders in some countries [who] are adopting the slogans and ideas of these [extremist] groups.”

Secretary-General António Guterres (at podium) and Adama Dieng (left), Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, jointly brief press following the launch of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech. (UN Photo, Manuel Elias)

Who could be these political leaders that Secretary-General António Guterres is accusing of inciting hate speech?

On June 18, following the launch of the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, Secretary-General António Guterres made the following remarks at a press encounter held at the United Nations Headquarters: 

Hate-filled content is reaching new audiences at lightning speed and has been linked with violence and killings from Sri Lanka to New Zealand and the United States. It is also used by extremist groups to recruit and radicalize people online. Political leaders in some countries are adopting the slogans and ideas of these groups, demonizing the vulnerable and weakening the standards of decency in public discourse that have served us for decades.

At the conclusion of the Secretary-General’s statement, journalist Pamela Falk, Foreign Affairs Analyst for CBS, followed up on these remarks, recalling similar statements that the Secretary-General made in a past speech addressed to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, this past February. Ms. Falk asked the Secretary-General about the “liberal democracies” he had mentioned, who were “bringing hate-fueled ideas to the public discourse and weakening the social fabric.” She asked the Secretary General if he could be more specific and elaborate on which liberal democracies he was referring to.  The Secretary-General first corrected Ms. Falk, stating that he did not only mention liberal democracies, but also authoritarian regimes, and then reiterated much of what he had said in his previous speech: “we see some political leaders, to a certain extent, mainstreaming what has been until now, particularly the expression of extremist groups, and with that undermining the social cohesion of the societies. And I believe that we have seen it in some recent electoral campaigns.”

Still in search of an answer as to who these political leaders of liberal democracies may be, James Bays of Al Jezeera, followed up on Ms. Falk’s questioning. In a statement to the Secretary-General, Mr. Bays asked, “You mention political leaders encouraging hate speech, you’re not being specific, would it not have more impact if you were to name and shame?”

The Secretary-General responded that to “name and shame” any one individual was not his purpose for today because it would defeat the purpose of what he is attempting to do. He said that what he wanted was for “the substance of the issue to be dealt with, so it’s a strategy that I have been applying and I intend to go on applying whenever it makes sense.”

Who could be these political leaders that Secretary-General António Guterres is accusing of inciting hate speech? There are a few possibilities: President Donald Trump of the US, Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini of Italy, Prime Minister Orban of Hungary, just to name a few. However, it is clear that the Secretary-General won’t be naming names anytime soon.

 

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