How should the media report hate crimes? Islamic association president and anti-hate expert weigh in

Two instances of hateful graffiti were reported to Windsor police in the past several days, while the Town of Tecumseh said several similar incidents were reported over the past month. 

Windsor mayor says he won't give 'authors of this hate speech the gratification they seek'

Evan Balgord, executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, says there are ways to responsibly report on hate crimes. (Tony Smyth/CBC)

The executive director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network said Wednesday that news media need to be careful when reporting on incidents of hate crimes. 

"The issue is how it's reported on and whether that reporting gives a platform to the hateful views, or whether it simply conveys the facts and allows people to take measures to defend their community … or to advance, for example, law enforcement to investigate and to lay charges," said Evan Balgord. 

Two instances of hate graffiti were reported to Windsor police in the past several days, while the Town of Tecumseh said several similar incidents were reported over the past month.

Reporting on hate crimes can be done "in a responsible way, " said Balgord.

"In the context of this graffiti, I think it's important to share the message so that people understand how hateful it is, while condemning it at the same time."

Balgord added there's a growing awareness in newsroom about covering similar issues.

"That's not to say the journalism is always top quality," he said. "There are still errors that are made on a regular basis, but it's getting better and better as time goes on … because this phenomenon is not going to go away."

Tecumseh OPP say signs, benches and walls in Lacasse Park were defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti between Sunday night and early Monday morning. (Town of Tecumseh)

Balgord said there's work carried out by anti-racist and anti-fascists organizations — as well as community targeted by hate — that sometimes goes unreported.

"It would be nice to see more coverage of events and solidarity actions like those," he said. 

Mirza Baig, president of the Windsor Islamic Association, cautioned news media against publicizing the hate graffiti found in Windsor and Tecumseh. 

"When you discover hate graffiti at a place in the city, it is confined to that specific wall in that localized area of the city," said Mirza Baig, in an email. "But when you take pictures and spread them through news media, you are spreading that hate to thousands of other people."

Windsor Islamic Association president Mirza Baig says publicizing the work of perpetrators of hate crimes indirectly helps those who would spread hateful messages. (Chris Ensing/CBC)

Baig said publicizing the work of the perpetrators of hateful graffiti indirectly helps those who would spread hateful messages.

"You are also encouraging people with similar mindset to carry out more copycat acts so that their own thirst for notorious publicity is satiated," he said.

"You are basically giving the haters a platform to spread their hatred and in the process you are also offending thousands of people at whom this hate is directed at."

Rather than publishing photographs, Baig recommended reporting such incidents "without writing a story about it or showing pictures of it."

Racist graffiti was cleaned from Little River Trail by city maintenance workers just this week. (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

In the same email, Baig encouraged individuals at whom hateful messages are targeted to use these incidents "as opportunities to showcase the positive aspects of your community."

"Immigrants, Arabs, Muslims and other communities should talk about who they are and what they have done for the city and of the country, they could come forward to show how many of them are successful doctors, university professors, businessmen, scientists, engineers and so on," he said. 

Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said he wouldn't "give the authors of this hate speech the gratification they seek."

"Their vandalism does not represent the views of our city or our residents," said Dilkens in a statement. "All residents are asked to report any suspicious activity to police."

With files from Chris Ensing


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