A study commissioned by the United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide has mapped out the key themes, patterns and root causes of hate speech in Kyrgyzstan. The report aims to help combat the proliferation of hate speech in the country, which has experienced significant political upheavals throughout its history. The study was conducted through a combination of desk reviews and primary data collection, including in-depth interviews, focus groups and a review of online media and social networks.
The study identified five categories of hate speech that are most prevalent in Kyrgyzstan:
- ethnicity and language,
- gender and sexuality,
- regionalism, and
- political hate speech.
The report highlights that intersectional hatred is common when victims are attacked on more than one characteristic. It also found a robust linkage between significant political events and the outburst of hate speech in media. The range of “speakers” was found to be wide, starting from high-level politicians to hired “troll farms” to ordinary users and commentators in online and social media. Facebook was identified as the primary space for expressing and spreading hateful expressions.
The root causes of hate speech in Kyrgyzstan are complex, with the report identifying four specific factors underpinning its advancement. These include entrenched social norms, growing polarisation of values, the effect of unethical political competition and the attraction of expanding access to the internet and social media. While the present efforts at tackling hate speech include legislative measures and activities of civil society organisations to fight misinformation and fake news and promote media and information literacy, the existing legal instruments suffer from vague or missing definitions, which can lead to arbitrary justice on hate speech-related cases. Therefore, the report recommends changes to the legislation to meet the requirements of international human rights law.
The report concludes with recommendations addressed to the national government, civil society organisations and the United Nations. The recommendations aim to develop a strategy that safeguards both freedom of expression and the right to non-discrimination. Effective countering of hate speech will require cooperation between different actors, a task that the United Nations is well-positioned to push forward.