RESPONSIBILITY. Freedom of Expression is a project born out of the appreciation of European norms and values. In particular it is addressing the freedom of expression as part of human rights, tolerance and acceptance, mutual understanding, solidarity and intercultural dialogue. These principles are appreciated as the basis of European Citizenship. They are important basic principles for civic engagement and democratic participation of citizens at EU level. This has, in turn, been the cornerstone of the previous success story of European Integration in Western Europe since World War II and Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the Iron Curtain. NGOs have played a decisive role in this constellation, establishing bridges between citizens, governments and EU institutions within and across country-borders.
However, irresponsible use of the freedom of expression through fake news, hate speech and other intimidation increasingly turns out to be a challenge to this constellation. Especially right-wing-populist actors and supporters engage in such practices that are not compatible with the norms and values mentioned above. It rather contradicts the principles of open dialogue, mutual understanding and solidarity, as it draws on strong antagonisms and exclusion.
The limitation of freedom of expression is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the freedom of expression is a basic principle of human rights and democracies. Any call for its limitation bears the danger of authoritarianism, as can be demonstrated through the legacy of socialism. On the other hand, revisionist history to legitimate mass murder and other forms of inhuman behavior highlight the need for clear norms and values. Recent changes in communication show that intimidation and hate speech change the rules of civic communication and impact civic engagement. Quite often, victims of these new physical and psychical violent discursive practices are highly vulnerable minorities without agency or people living up to solidarity and European values. These attacks result in an atmosphere of fear, self-censorship and retreat from the deliberative, argumentative sphere of public discourses while those who practice violent forms of communication argue with the freedom of expression to legitimize hatred and intimidation.
The project aims at developing strategies against these challenges for civil society, fostering the responsible application of the freedom of expression. It is an instrument of solidarity and cross-border cooperation in times of crisis, strengthening particularly vulnerable groups of individuals and NGOs as their public voices. It addresses victims of hatred, migrants, Roma and volunteers working with marginalized groups of different nationalities, age, gender, religion and culture. The project fights against marginalization, fake news, harassment and intolerance. By identifying best practices in different countries and by its specific dissemination strategies The project builds counter-narratives to foster intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding, which will enhance the understanding of freedom of expression as a valuable intangible good that needs protection from abusive implementation and practices, especially on the occasion of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.
As such, the project is directed at creating and maintaining a social atmosphere of respectful dialogue and understanding, encouraging democratic participation and empowering citizens to get actively involved in shaping EU policies.
The World of NGOs, Vienna, Austria – consortium coordinator
University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Association sustainability of progressive and open communication, Sofia, Bulgaria
B.a.B.e.-„BUDI AKTIVNA-BUDI EMANCIPIRAN,” Zagreb, Croatia
Institutul de Cercetare Făgăraș, Făgăraș, Romania
ICF Research team:
Dr. Stefan Cibian, ICF Executive Director (project coordinator),
Dr. Silvia Fierăscu, ICF Research Fellow,
Dr. Anca Molnoș, ICF Research Fellow,
Laura Ranca, ICF Researcher.