MDI at the Global Minority Rights Summer School

Dates: 10 – 16 July 2016

Country: Hungary, Budapest

Ivana_Jelaca_at_TLI_Summer_SchoolAre minority rights still relevant? Participants of the 4th Global Minority Rights Summer School in Budapest tried to find the answers. They examined legislation and policies to protect minority rights worldwide, while the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) Ivana Jelaca highlighted the role of the media. Jelaca claimed that not only the existence of minority media is necessary, but the minorities have to be included and represented in the mainstream media too.

At the Summer School organised by Tom Lantos Institute in Budapest, participants coming from all over Europe, discussed terminological definitions of ‘minorities’ as well as the differences between human rights, minority rights and indigenous people’s rights.

What if you have a group of people who is a minority by the number and oppressed by the majority group, therefore they need special protection, but they do not want to be referred to as minority? Rita Iszak-Ndiaye, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, explained that the United Nations decide who is the minority based on objective and subjective criteria such as how the group of people in question feels itself.

One of the key issues debated during this year’s summer school was language. While some lecturers and participants highlighted the importance of right to use minority language, a participant from Bosnia and Herzegovina has raised a different question. He presented the case from his country where each of three main ethnic groups has the right to have curricula in their own language. Consequently, many schools are being separated which is in collision with pupils who wish to go to joint schools which just proves the complexity of the topic.

The Summer School raised an important question to what extent people, particularly those coming from minority background, are aware of their rights. Anna-Maria Biro, director of Tom Lantos Institute, noted that “in some way human rights advocacy became elitist profession” adding that many big organisations are focused on specific areas failing to educate citizens or introduce the language relevant to the protection of human and minority rights.

At one of the events organised during the Summer school, Jenifer Jackson – Preece, Associate Professor at London School of Economics (LSE) presented her research on the securitisation of minorities. She discussed the phenomena of relating minorities and social diversity to security issues, and this particularly stands for, as she referred, ‘new’ minorities – refugees and migrants from different parts of the world. Jackson-Preece talked about the use of language of fear in the political discourse in the last couple of years in particular.

“By invoking exceptional circumstances, securitization is fundamentally non-democratic: the voices of securitized minorities are cancelled out of the democratic process. Indeed, once diversity is successfully securitized, the democratic principles of recognition, equality and participation in the democratic process are overruled”, said JacksonPreece.

“People need to believe in the threat,” she said adding that “messages have to be repeated often enough in order to reach the wider audience”. “Media play their role in that and traditional media have the power to challenge this fear,” said Jackson-Preece.