January – October 2018




The ‘Journalists for Tolerance’ Human Rights Civil Initiative (further – J4t) conducts annual monitoring of hate speech in relation to vulnerable populations in the Belarusian media, including a separate monitoring research in relation to LGBTQ+.

The J4t experts regard the hate speech as a peculiar means of linguistic construction of models and practices of social inequality[1]. They believe that incorrect rhetoric strategies can reinforce and generate discriminatory practices in extreme cases. At the same time, they are convinced that correct rhetoric can help to build decent relations between representatives of different social groups, which are grounded on the principles of equality and mutual respect.

The notion of ‘hate speech’ within this monitoring reseach includes a broad spectrum of means of linguistic construction of inequality, starting from direct calls for violence to derogatory ironic epithets.[2] This comprehension of hate speech is much broader than the concept, which is used by lawyers to qualify journalistic material as extremist. The J4t experts would like to draw the reader’s special attention to this difference. The inclusion of publications in the monitoring research doesn’t mean that they contain openly aggressive rhetoric. At the same time, it is believed that even light hate speech can support the existing discriminatory practices, if it is wide-spread, acceptable, and accepted, by default. Therefore, the monitors intend to register and draw public attention to all manifestations of hate speech in mass media, regardless of their rigidity.

The monitoring research aims at providing a review of manifestations of hate speech in the Belarusian media. The special attention is paid to the following issues:

  1. The categories of mass media that have high probability of hate speech production, which authors should be the main target group of corresponding enlightening activities.
  2. The social groups that suffer from hate speech manifestations most of all and, consequently, need the strengthened defence of their interests.
  3. The most wide-spread incorrect rhetoric strategies in mass media, which should be considered during educational seminars, mentioned in handbooks for journalists etc.

The monitoring results are addressed to the journalistic community, human rights defenders, representatives of vulnerable populations (LGBTQ+ community in this concrete case) as well as to enlightening organizations and initiatives, which deal with the problematic of hate speech.


The monitoring research is based on the stratified cluster sampling, which is representative for online publications in the Belarusian media. The clusters were represented by media Web-sites. The stratification criteria included the media coverage (national / regional) and their political standpoint (pro-governmental / independent).

There was formed a list of Belarusian mass media, meeting the following requirements:

  1. The presence of editorial Web-site.
  2. The frequency of Web-site updates more than once-twice a month in January – October 2018 (the unregular updates, including ‘void’ months, were accepted at that).
  3. The media outlets addressed to the broad audience (i.e. ‘The Chief Accountant’ magazine and similar trade-oriented publications were deleted form the list, publications for men and women were left in the list, a newspaper for teenagers was left in the list as addressing the audience, which is sensitive to the topic of sexuality and gender identity).
  4. The media outlets published materials on the social and political topics (i.e. advertising periodicals or collections of anecdotes couldn’t get into the list for formal reasons).

There were found 221 Belarusian media outlets[3], which met the abovementioned criteria. 36 mass media were selected at random from the list each month within the monitoring period (January – October 2018). The equal number of nation-wide / regional media and pro-governmental (state-owned) / independent media was included into the monitoring research each month at that. The search for materials was implemented with the use of key words[4]. All in all 161 media outlets appeared in the list of selected media within 10 months of the monitoring period. The sample size of 161 media out of the total number of 221 media at the confidence level of 95% gives the confidence interval 4.

Each publications with mentioning of LGBTQ+ was analysed as for the presence of key words, certain types of hate speech, the number of observed hate speech markers etc.[5]

Each manifestation of hate speech in the analyzed publications was rated as follows: 3 points for severe hate speech, 2 points for mid-level hate speech, 1 point for light hate speeh. The points were summed up. Consequenly, they could be amended, depending on the frequency of hate speech in concrete materials and the author’s standpoint[6]. The final figure makes the hate speech harshness score for concrete publications that makes it possible to compare the agressiveness of rhetoric in different materials.



The monitors found 891 publications with mentioning of LGBTQ+ in 59 media, which had been selected for participation in the monitoring research both with hate speech and without it.

530 publications in 55 media contained hate speech of different level of rigidity. 149 publications from the list contained either light hate speech (e.g., the expression ‘sexual minorities’ in the essentially human rights material) or hate speech that was marked as inappropriate rhetoric (e.g., illustrative homophobic quotations in an LGBT-friendly article).The remaining 381 articles contained more rigid and incorrect rhetoric.

If you convert absolute numbers into percentages, the monitoring team checked 24% of all materials, which had been published on the Web-sites of Belarusian mass media in the period since January till October 2018 inclusive, and only 0.34% of all checked materials contained mentioning of LGBTQ+ (the figure had totaled 0.25% a year before).

Less than a half of them (40%) didn’t contain any features of hate speech (47% a year before). The remaining 60% of publications had the following division of percentage: 28% of materials contained the minimally rigid hate speech (or the hate speech, which was marked as inappropriate) and 72% of materials, which contained more rigid hate speech (the percentage used to be 1/3 to 2/3 a year before.)

In other words, the number of publications with mentioning of LGBTQ+  somewhat increased in 2018 in comparison with 2017. However, at the same time the part of publications with hate speech increased, including more rigid hate speech. It will be explained further that the change could be explained due to the analysis of newsbreaks on the topic in 2018.

At the same time, it should be taken into consideration that 28% of texts with menioning of LGBTQ+ contained the minimally rigid hate speech. Also, it should be understood that quite often these publications have more vivid human rights approach than the publications without hate speech. Therefore, analyzing the general statistic 2018, it would be more correct to tell as follows: 57% of appropriate and close to appropriate texts as well as 43% of publications caused anxiety with their rhetoric within the reporting period.




Types of hate speech Number of publications
The use of derogatory vocabulary 242
The creation of negative image for a social group 172
Accusations of attemps to take over the power, expand, domineer; the mentioning of negative impact, exerted by ‘them’ 152
Accusations of negative influence on the society and the state 152
Incitement to discrimination, including slogans, directed toward the whole social group 130
Allegations of inferiority 119
Emphasizing the significance and nature of differences between groups / communities 107
Mentioning in the humiliating or offending context 105
Denial of belonging to the general community 100
Comparison betweeen social groups and communities, negation of universality of human rights for some social groups 90




  • The number of publications, mentioning LGBTQ+ in Belarusian mass media, increased from 0.25% (approximately each 400th publication) in 2017 to 0.34% (approximately each 300th publication) in 2018. At the same time, the level of hate speech increased from 6.3 (the average rigidity score in 2017) to 8.6 (the score in 2018).


  • The peak of publications within the monitoring period, mentioning LGBTQ+, was observed in May 2018. It was 4.5 times more on average in comparison with January – April 2018. The number of publications returned to the usual number by October 2018. The main newsbreak was focused on the homophobic manifesto of the Ministry of Interior of Belarus in connection with the appearance of a rainbow flag on the premises of the U.K. embassy in Minsk on IDAHOT Day in May 2018. The majority of observed publications on LGBTQ+ thematic up to September 2018 were either directly or indirectly connected to the public statement.


  • The observed increase of hate speech in the Belarusian media is apparently connected with the lack of algorithms, allowing to publish a material about discriminatory statements without the risk of becoming a tribune for incorrect rhetoric. It makes the main challenge for the journalists, who publish materials on the human rights problematic in  Belarus nowadays.

[1] The Press (In)tolerance Index. E.Ponarin, D.Dubrovskiy, A.Tolkacheva, R.Akifyeva // Hate Speech against Society Compiled by A.Verkhovenskiy. – Moscow: ‘Sova’ Centre, 2007.

[2] The list of concrete manifestations of hate speech see in [File ‘Supplement to Research’/ ‘Parameters of Publication’ Sheet].

[3] [File “Attachment to Report” / “List of Mass Media” Sheet]

[4] [File “Attachment to Report”/ “List of key words” Sheet].

[5] [File “Attachment to Report”/ “The Parametres of Publications” Sheet]

[6] [File “Attachment to Report”/ “The Parametres of Publications” Sheet / “The Score” Line].