A Maltese voluntary organisation has said it is “alarmed by the authorities’ apparent tolerance of violent and threatening hate speech in our public spaces, including social media”.
“Despite innumerable instances of criminal hate speech on our streets and our screens, no or sparing action has been taken by any competent authorities (including the domestic Hate Crime and Speech Unit) to prosecute any such offensive and criminal behaviour,” SOS Malta said yesterday.
Their statement comes in the wake of a political crisis that has gripped Malta, with more and more offensive language being used by partisans and trolls online.
Several people, including ministers, have spoken about being on the recieving end of offensive language, and a reforms secretary even recently reported an online comment that threatened violence against a certain group.
There have been some egregious cases of recent hate speech online, including against a 16-year-old political activist.
As well as hate speech against a trans* individual prior to that.
“SOS Malta condemns such inaction which has contributed to the increasingly abusive and wholly unacceptable displays of intolerance, discrimination and even fanaticism.”
Saying that “such reprehensible behaviour erodes and degrades our civil society”, SOS Malta warned that allowing such language would lead to a “disturbing loss of our cultural and social values as a nation”.
“The views expressed in such incidences have no place in a modern society. The expression of such views is likely to represent a criminal offence.”
According to official figures, there have been 21 hate crimes in Malta during the first eight months of 2019. Up until last year, Malta was one of five EU countries that did not collect any data on hate crimes, which was subject to criticism to EU authorities.
SOS Malta urged the public to exercise restraint and consideration when discussing emotional topics, and to “rediscover acceptance, tolerance, humanity and charity in our words and deeds”.
They also called on the state to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy when it comes to reported hate speech.