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Groups Want Politicians to Stand up Against Hate Speech During European Elections

By Shola Adenekan

Friday, May 10, 2019.

  • Issued a statement supported by over 30 anti-racist charities, community groups, women’s rights organisations and human rights groups

  • Local authorities urged to correct false claims made about their areas during election campaign

A collective of human rights organisations, community groups and trade unions has called on British politicians to condemn racism and  xenophobia, in the run up to the European Union elections, in June.

The statement - organised by the TUC (Trade Unions Congress)  - is signed by more than 30 organisations and calls on all political parties to stand up against unlawful hate speech. The collective -  which includes Amnesty International, Show Racism the Red Card, and Asylum Matters - call on  local authorities to publicly correct false claims made by candidates and parties that could stir up divisions in their communities.

“There is no room for racism, misogyny or any other form of hatred during - or after - these elections, “ TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said. “Elections are an important time to discuss the issues facing society. Whatever the outcome it is essential that these elections are not abused to sow hatred and division. On this, we must stand together. We hope politicians and civic society will join us in calling for a respectful campaign.”  

The collective recognises that freedom of speech and freedom of expression are a fundamental part of any democracy. However, they must not be used to incite harm against others.

The group said: “It is not acceptable to blame different races, ethnic or religious groups, migrant workers or refugees for Britain’s problems.”

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has produced guidance on how political parties and candidates should conduct themselves during election periods.

This guidance outlines what is lawful freedom of speech and what is unlawful hate speech. And it states very clearly that incitement to racial hatred, religious hatred, or hatred because of sexual orientation are against the law and should not be used in political campaigning.

The guidance also highlights the key role local authorities have to play in setting the record straight if candidates use false claims to influence the public vote.  This is to ensure that local people are not misled.

When local authorities become concerned that public statements during an election period are spreading misinformation, they have discretion to consider issuing a corrective statement, subject to strict conditions.

Examples of false or misleading information include inflated figures on the number of migrant workers and for the costs to public and local services, as well as accusations that people from ethnic minorities commit more crimes than people of European descent.

Groups Want Politicians to Stand up Against Hate Speech During European Elections

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