Publication Date
Publication Date: 
September 1, 2016

"Whenever media are manipulated by politicians and others in defence of country, culture, religion and race, they have the potential to do harm. Even the best journalists can sometimes, inadvertently, do damage when they report controversial stories out of context. A failure of principle in the newsroom and poor understanding of the potential impact of the words and images can lead to acts of journalism that encourage hatred and violence."

How can journalists and others define, identify, and respond to hate speech? Based on international standards, this 5-point test of speech for journalism has been developed by Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) advisers in an effort to help journalists to identify hate speech and to understand better the possible impact of its dissemination. The resource highlights some questions to be asked in the gathering, preparation, and dissemination of news and information that will help journalists and editors place what is said and who is saying it in an ethical context.

The moto of EJN's campaign "Turning the Page of Hate in Media", part of which is this test, is "Don't Sensationalise. Avoid the Rush to Publish. Take a Moment of Reflection." To that end, the test challenges journalists to think about the following before they decide whether a quotation can be characterised as hate speech:

  1. The position or status of the speaker - for example: "Journalists and editors must understand that just because someone says something outrageous that does not make it news. Journalists have to examine the context in which it is said and the status and reputation of who is saying it."
  2. The reach of the speech - for example: "A private conversation in a public place can include the most unspeakable opinions but do relatively little harm and so would not necessarily breach the test of hate-speech. But that changes if the speech is disseminated through mainstream media or the Internet."
  3. The objectives of the speech - "The key questions to ask are: What does it benefit the speaker and the interests that he or she represents? Who are victims of the speech and what is the impact upon them, both as individuals and within their community?"
  4. The content and form of speech - "Journalists ask themselves: is this speech or expression dangerous? Could it lead to prosecution under the law? Will it incite violence or promote an intensification of hatred towards others?"
  5. The economic, social, and political climate - "Above all journalists have to be careful. They should recognise the context including where there are patterns of discrimination against ethnic and other groups, including indigenous peoples and minorities."

The resource concludes with a Checklist for Tolerance. A 1-page infographic is also available; EJN suggests that it be printed and posted in newsrooms.

The 5-point test and its translations are supported by organisations including the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Council of Europe, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Other translations have been provided by national non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and individual journalists.


Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, Croatian, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Macedonian, Montegrerin, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Serbian (Cyrillic), Turkish, Ukrainian.

Number of Pages: 

5 pages (resource); 1 page (infographic)


EJN website and Resources page on the EJN website, November 9 2016; emails from Tom Law to The Communication Initiative on November 9 2016 and February 8 2017; and Ethical Journalism Bulletin - 1 December 2017.

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