Dialogue for the protection of the rule of law

Dialog zum Schutz der Rechtsstaatlichkeit

Dialog zum Schutz der Rechtsstaatlichkeit

The International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ) and LGP organized the opening event of the Viennese Dialogue for the Protection of the Rule of Law at the Österreichische Kontrollbank (OeKB) on 20 June 2017.


Host Gerald Ganzger, Peter Gridling (Director BVT), Michael Schwanda (Ministry of Justice) and State Secretary Muna Duzdar

Hatred in words quickly turns to hatred in deeds.

"The internet has become a catalyst for hate speech. This is why we have to set a culture of togetherness against the culture of hatred” said state secretary Muna Duzdaras her welcoming words. With her initiative against hate on the internet, she advocates for the education of so-called “digital ambassadors”to strengthen “digital moral courage”and would like to establish a central reporting point against hate on the internet. She would like to take over a pioneering role in the EU.

Michael Schwanda, Head of Sektion III, Federal Ministry of Justice presented the training programme “Justice and History” for candidate judges. The compulsory curriculum provides for courses in the area of “knowledge about the NS era”, visiting memorials, in-depth symposia about contemporary history and discussions with contemporary witnesses.

Peter Gridling, Director of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and Counter Terrorism (BVT), Ministry ofInterior, pointed out the numbers in the reporton protection of the constitution, accordingto which the number of extremist actions has been continually on the rise for years. “The flow of refugees has unsettled a lot of people in Austria, the number of xenophobic offences has grown triple.” In view of this development, Gridling was less confident than the state secretary and demanded that politics should strongly advocate for prevention and raising awareness within the civil population.

Offenders are often not aware of the implicationsof their crimes on the internet.

According to the host Gerald Ganzger, whoas a lawyer is regularly involved in proceedings regarding antisemitism and hate crime, the prevention of antisemitism and hate crime called for general as well as specific deterrence. Offenders had to be deterred from future criminal acts, hate crime on the internet had to be outlawed beyond mere criminal prosecution. “Hate crimes on the internet are no mere trivial offences. This message has to be communicated to society via the media.”

“Due to the progressive development of digitalization, a new scene for antisemitism and hate crime has been set” is the central finding of the President of the Jewish Community (IKG), Oskar Deutsch. The latest events in the academic sector (anti-Semitic chat-groups by students) had shown: “Antisemitism is neither tied to a specific age-group nor to a social class. Therefore, the key to breaking the respective stereotypes lies in working with young people. Digital media play an important role here. We ought to be ready to enter into a dialogue with our fellow human beings, but we should also be consequent in case of offences” said Oskar Deutsch at the Viennese Dialogue for the Protection of the Rule of Law. Ariel Muzicant, honorary president of the Jewish Community (IKG) and vice-president ofthe European-Jewish Congress (EJC) urged politicians to show more courage. “You cannot convince people with philanthropic initiatives. We have to pull out all the stops in order to preserve and protect European values. This requires a paradigm shift, because there can be no space for extremism in Europe.”

The author Doron Rabinovici: “the judicialsystem provides the framework to advance substantive clarification according to certain rules in each individual case. The civic public is noticeably being replaced by socially separated forums. The media of editorial responsibility are under general suspicion. No common visions, but particular conspiracy theories are becoming the common denominator. It is the social digital private companies who set their own rules, while being mainly subject to the logic of profit. Digital communication works particularistic and at the same time it is globally linked. It is not secure knowledge but the sensational confirmation of personal prejudices which is virally distributed.”

Author and historian Doron Rabinovici

Understanding the mechanisms of onlinecommunication.

The finding of journalist Ingrid Brodnig: “anonymity and invisibility make facebook the new gateway for antisemitism.” “You do not have to look the victim in the eye and communication can takeplace non-simultaneously”. The alarming numbers presented by Yogev Karsenty, Director of the Forum against Antisemitism at the Israeli Ministry of Diaspora Affairs, caused a stir among the audience: on average, a hate posting on the web currently reaches approximately 3,000 people via likes and retweets, which indicates a tremendous multiplier effect. “Facebook, Twitter and Co. claim to have adopted the condemnation of hate speech as their company policy. However, this is not reflected in their behavior regarding the deletions of postings”, the expert criticizes. As a strategy, Yogev Karsenty suggested global regulation in the laws on the national level. In this context, Irit Kohn, IAJLJ President, pointed out the Israeli expertise regarding the combating of antisemitism and hate crimes on the internet. “In Israel, there is intensive research on antisemitism and hate crimes on the internet, this experience is virtually predestined for a transfer of knowledge. This is why we try to invite delegations to Israel.”

Ingrid Brodnig, journalist and author „Hass im Netz“ ("Online Hate Speech")
Irit Kohn, attorney and president of the International Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists (IAJLJ)

Enforcing one’s rights as a victim.

Julia Andras and Kevin Barrett, both legal experts at LGP, locate immense adjustment requirements regarding the rights of victims. The legislator may have reacted to the current developments, e.g. that relevant suspect notifications have doubled within only three years, and has installed a publicity threshold of 30 persons. Still, the victims of hate crimes often lack the possibility to fight of these crimes effectively. “Photos and videos of Nazi salutes are recorded at FPÖ election rallies and then published. However, due to not being admissible as a party, one has no influence on the further proceedings”, the lawyer complains about the status quo. Contrary to what is the case in criminal proceedings, victims can assert their own rights very quickly in civil proceedings and “turn off” hate postings, the media lawyer Gerald Ganzger added. “This is enforced by a coercive penalty, which can amount to up to EUR 100,000 per day. This is a hard blow even for large companies. Of course, the right to free speech has to be protected when fighting hate speech. Therefore, the two basic rights have to be weighed carefully in each individual case” says Gerald Ganzger.

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