Virtual Lecture – Towards an Integrated and Inter-Disciplinary Approach to Tackle Hate Speech and Divisive Narratives in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Contexts

Wednesday 20 April 2022, 10:00 am – 11:00 am EDT, online (Washington DC, USA)


Featuring Vefa Veisalova and David Nyheim.

The primary aim of this presentation is to expand the focus on the role of media narratives in fragile and conflict settings beyond problematizing hate speech. In assessing the negative effects of new communication technologies and channels, as well as reactive and ad-hoc approaches to hate speech, existing research can easily overlook the opportunity-generating aspect of divisive narratives as a space for dialogue and exchange among conflicting parties. In understanding how to address hate speech, and the underlying conflict dynamics it often indicates, there is significant value to learn from some private sector practices in response to negative campaigning by advocacy groups and efforts by companies to shift confrontational narratives into constructive public dialogue. This presentation goes beyond hate speech to look at divisive narratives in fragile and conflict environments. The first part of the presentation will look at specific cases (e.g. Karabakh), where narratives both in Azerbaijan and Armenia have been constructed to maintain and then shift the status quo while also inciting hate speech. Specifically, in immediate post-conflict settings, we will explore what room there is to shift divisive narratives into public dialogue. The second part will discuss what lessons can be drawn from the private sector in fostering a public dialogue in contexts of negative campaigning by ideologically opposed groups. It will outline, through the experiences of the authors, promising approaches that have worked in fragile and non-conflict (yet highly polarized) environments. As such, the presentation will present an opportunity-oriented approach to tackling divisive narratives and lessons from the private sector in this respect.


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