Milena Santerini: 'In combating radicalisation we must uphold fundamental freedoms'

“It is essential to strike a balance between the fight against radicalisation and respect for fundamental freedoms,” said Milena Santerini (Italy, SOC), PACE general rapporteur on the fight against racism and intolerance and co-ordinator of the No Hate Parliamentary Alliance, opening the seminar on the fight against racism, hatred and intolerance in France which was held at the French Senate as part of the Alliance’s programme of activities. 

“Disproportionately limiting freedom of expression would be to fall into the trap set for us by the terrorists and to undermine the founding values of our European democracies,” Ms Santerini added. “The fight against hatred requires patience, dialogue and inclusion. The No Hate Parliamentary Alliance believes that all forms of discrimination must be combated simultaneously, as they are closely intertwined and all stem from a common root,” she said. 

“France has a sound and comprehensive legal and institutional framework to combat racism and intolerance,” said Nicole Duranton, French Senator and member of the Alliance in her speech.

“Nonetheless, in the dramatic context in which we find ourselves, we see a rise in the number of Islamophobic and anti-Semitic words and deeds.” With regard to hate speech on the Internet, she said that “social media were more and more being used as the preferred channels offering a formidable sounding board.” “But how can we control hate speech on the Internet, the ideal place for people to speak without any inhibition under cover of anonymity. The problem was not so much a technical one, but a political and legal one,” she stressed.

Anne Brasseur, Ambassador of the Council of Europe’s No Hate Speech Movement, spoke of the origins behind the Council of Europe’s No Hate campaign in 2013 following the events in Utoya. “The many tragic events that have occurred since then clearly show that this campaign, which has just been extended to 2017, is as relevant now as it was when it was first launched.”

Referring to France’s involvement in the campaign, Ms Brasseur welcomed the involvement of cities such as Strasbourg, but expressed regret that the French government had not yet taken an active part in the movement. She hoped nevertheless that it would do so in the near future.

Closing the seminar, Pierre-Yves Le Borgn' observed a “road map” in the various proposals discussed. “Co-operation between states is more essential than ever. We must also get the Committee of Ministers on board as much as we can through the initiatives we take as members of parliament.” He added, “nothing can be more effective than exposing young people to the worst horrors brought forth by human nature. Showing them historically symbolic sites and providing them with real insight can help ensure they become involved and help win them over to our cause.”