“Respect Words: Ethical Journalism Against Hate Speech” is a collaborative project that has been undertaken by media organizations in eight European countries – Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, and Spain. Supported by the Rights and Citizenship Programme of the European Union, it seeks, according to its website, to help journalists, in this era of growing “Islamophobia,” to “rethink” the way they address “issues related to migratory processes, ethnic and religious minorities.” It sounds benign enough: “rethink.” But do not kid yourself: when these EU-funded activists call for “rethinking,” what they are really doing is endorsing self-censorship.
In September, “Respect Words” issued a 39-page document entitled Reporting on Migration & Minorities: Approach and Guidelines. Media outlets, it instructs, “should not give time or space to extremist views simply for the sake of ‘showing the other side.'” But which views count as “extremist”? The report does not say – not explicitly, anyway. “Sensationalist or overly simplistic reporting on migration,” we read, “can enflame existing societal prejudices” and thus “endanger migrants’ safety.” Again, what counts as “sensationalist” or “overly simplistic”? That is not spelled out, either. Nor, we are told, should we associate “terms such as ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islam’… with particular acts,” because to do that is to “stigmatize.” What exactly does this mean? That when a man shouts “Allahu Akbar” after having gunned down, run over with a truck, or blown to bits dozens of innocent pedestrians or concertgoers, we are supposed to ignore that little detail?