April 26, 2021

On 25 April, Albania had its parliamentary elections and the current Prime Minister, Edi Rama is set to win as preliminary results show. However, the focus of this article is not the political environment or the results of the elections but what happened during the electoral campaign. By looking at the rhetoric of all sides it is clearer than ever that the electoral campaign was dominated by hate speech. Political hate speech remains one of the most prominent forms of hate speech, particularly during electoral campaigns.

During March, Reporting Diversity Network 2.0 identified several hate speech incidents, which were perpetrated by key political figures in the country. In this article we will refer to the main incidents that drew the attention of the public and the media, and at the same time are important to be addressed. Incidents include the use of hate speech, offensive, derogatory and sexist language, which various political figures used against each other.

The most debated incident of this period was the one that involved the Prime Minister of the country, Edi Rama and the candidate for MP of the Democratic Party, Grida Duma, who have attracted public attention for the use of inappropriate language against each other. More specifically, it has been noted that the Prime Minister, during a direct presentation of his political candidates who will run in the parliamentary elections, introduced them compared to the candidates coming from the opposition party (PD). The photos of the opposition candidates were derogatory, out of context and with sexist content. Particular attention was drawn to the photo he used to represent Grida Duma, which he accompanied with the description “Gridare, Gridare, Gridare ooooo”, which significantly adds sexist tones to the selected image.

On the other hand, reactions with the same language came from representatives of other political parties in the country, such as Grida Duma, who in a post on her FB page shared videos with insulting calls to the Prime Minister. Also, Nora Malaj MP of the SMI in parliament has reacted regarding the Rama-Duma incident, using aggressive contemptuous language (sick, injured hyena, etc.). On the other hand, it is noted the use of hate speech language against various representatives of civil society, pointing the finger on those who did not react to the incident.

A response to the incident came in the form of a public call from 24 civil society organizations, which called for the ban on the use of hate speech against women in politics. Their call was addressed to political entities, the media, as well as the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination.

This incident in particular, but also the massive use of hate speech during the election campaign prompted the reaction of the Head of the European Union Delegation in Tirana, Luigi Soreca, who in a public statement recalled the “importance of constructive and comprehensive political dialogue…that is based on mutual respect, dialogue and restraint, and is conducted in a peaceful manner, without provocative rhetoric or hate speech. ” In the same line with the EU delegation stand the recommendations of the Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and the Central Election Commission, which in particular emphasize the “prevention of hate speech during the election campaign”, both by political parties and their supporters, as well as by the media which “should refuse to cover election campaigns that use or support hate speech.”

It is worth noting that, even when the media and journalists do not directly use hate speech in what they publish, they amplify the hate speech that politicians use by reporting on those incident and constantly repeating their narratives in violation of the Code of Ethics. Reporting and coverage of these incidents by media professionals should be done responsibly, accompanied by the necessary explanations and critical reflections on the context, in order to contribute to reducing hate speech, not spreading and increasing it.

Author: Dorentina Hysa

Photo credit: Andrij Vatsyk/ Shutterstock