It’s difficult to ignore the menaces of hate speech and fake news, whether or not they directly affect us. They grow and spread like stubborn weeds in international cyberspace. And often, web-savvy youth are major agents working to craft or control such messages and stories.
In Leipzig, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) – for which I sometimes write – has been focusing a lot on these two menaces. It has also been trying to reach more young people.
Together these elements underlie the second edition of ECPMF’s “1,000 words for freedom” contest, aimed at European youth.
The contest invites “young people under the age of 27 to write up to 1,000 words on the question: Should we be free to hate?” Its categories are “Youth,” from 12 to 17 years old; and “Newcomers,” 18 to 27 years old. Each category has a prize (annual newspaper subscription or trip to ECPMF’s annual international conference).
You can write “an essay, a newspaper or magazine article, a poem, play or blog post in any of these languages: English, German, French, Spanish or Russian.”
According to Sophie Albers Ben Chamo, press officer for the ECPMF, they received applications from Italy, France, the UK and Denmark for the prize’s first edition. A 23-year-old Dane from Roskilde University nabbed the top prize, traveling to the 2016 conference in Leipzig. He later shared his thoughts in a LeipGlo article.
Says ECPMF’s Jane Whyatt, who launched the contest last year:
“This year we’ve chosen a tricky question: ‘Should we be free to hate?’ We believe the young people of Europe will have strong views on this, because hate speech is horrible and destroys lives. On the other hand, if they make laws to ban strong opinions, then that is a restriction on freedom of expression. What to do?”