May 25, 2013

Hate speech – a tool in the hands of weak

Well know Lithuanian television journalist and film-maker Audrius Lelkaitis thinks media should take part of responsibility for spreading stereotypes about vulnerable groups of society. He says it is very important to work with journalist on their prejudices and try to change their attitude. ‘But it is not easy,’ Lelkaitis admits.

Media4change shares Lelkaitis’ thoughts on hate speech and stereotypes in media, as well as why journalism education matters.

Hate speech in journalism

Hate speech is the speech of weak people, I’d say. People, who use hate speech don’t want to think. And that is the problem. This is what we have to change. Usually, such situations are complicated and it‘s not easy to react. And it‘s much easier just to use stereotypes and say that all Roma people are lazy or all gay people are predators who try to seduce young people. I think many use hate speech as the easiest way out.


The Lithuanian media, for example, is a money-producing machine basically. It‘s purely business. Our task, as media outlets representatives, is to earn money (for our employers). It‘s much easier to use lower standards in order to work in such environment. But you cannot just come into the newsroom and say to your fellow journalist: ‘From now on you will be the best journalist is this world.’ It doesn’t work like that, as people need time to change. The main goal is to change the mentality of journalist and it‘s a very difficult task.

Stereotypes in media

Media spreads stereotypes. Again, it‘s easier. For example, if we have a car accident, it‘s way easier to say: Ooh, it was the Roma guy.’ And then everybody thinks: ‘Oh, it‘s the Roma guy, who didn‘t know how to drive. They usually drive drunk.’ But, for instance, we don‘t mention that it was a Russian driver, because we have plenty of Russian drivers here, in Lithuania. So, again, it’s sloppy journalism. It‘s much easier just to use stereotypes.

There must be some written rules and those rules should be hanged on the wall in every newsroom. Everybody must know those rules. But it’s a question how to force people to apply those rules. Usually, it doesn’t work like that – you cannot just go and force people to do something, they have to choose it themselves. From my point of view, there is no other way to change people’s mentality.

Journalism education matters

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn once said that the line between good and bad goes through everyone’s heart. Every journalist must decide whether he wants to produce a very balanced and good story or to produce crap. We have to talk with our fellow journalists and, by talking and discussing things with them, we might change their attitudes.

There are no mechanical solutions to this problem. Basically, it’s a propaganda thing. Christians have tried to change the mentality of people for hundreds of years. For some of us it is not easy to understand that we all are equal nowadays. We have to put a lot of effort. Journalists must feel the responsibility for their work and we just have to talk about those important issues with them over and over again.

Media is a tribune for everyone, even for those who spread hate speech

In my opinion, we always have to talk to them. They have their own thinking and they have their own motives. But we have to give them our hand first. Just by talking to such people you can get closer to their arguments. It‘s much easier to shut the door, but it doesn’t solve the problem. They have their own mentality and technology. Basically, our job is to listen to everyone.

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