PRESS RELEASE BY THE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT: “Educators and schools are the shield against hate speech” – President George Vella

The President of Malta, George Vella, said that schools are the shield against hate speech because the educators in classrooms are the ones helping in the comprehensive formation of students, which is not limited to the academic aspect.

Addressing a conference entitled ‘Hate Speech – Challenged in Schools’ at Verdala Palace, President Vella said that he believes there should be an educational programme providing teachers with the necessary information and tools for teaching and, at the same time, showing students signs by which, they can recognise what hate speech is, the damage it causes, and be an example to those around them.

The president stressed the fundamental role of schools in overcoming the challenge of hate speech by fostering an environment of respect, solidarity, tolerance, and fully accepting diversity. Schools, added President Vella, are the place where diversity should be celebrated.

While thanking Minister for Education, Clifton Grima, the Faculty of Education at the University of Malta, the academics, and all the speakers who shared their knowledge, experiences, and patterns of this phenomenon, President Vella said that the way hate speech has spread in society is worrying, especially in the context of national unity, which cannot be built on fighting, insults, disrespect, and threats.

"By this, I mean that even when we disagree, we should show respect both to our fellow Maltese and Gozitans and to the many foreigners living, working, and directly contributing to the strengthening of our country," stated President George Vella while calling on politicians, journalists, social media influencers, employers, and other prominent people to always weigh their words and actions.

With the aim of a fair society, the president said that we should be among the first to set an example with appropriate words and behaviour that create a sense of empathy, love, and respect towards everyone, even towards those with whom we disagree.

The purpose of the conference was to raise more awareness about hate speech, learn why elements of society resort to it and make recommendations that can be implemented by the authorities and schools.

The president expressed the hope that the conference would lead to a work plan for a more inclusive environment, enhance knowledge about hate speech, and show the great contribution that educators and schools can make in this field. He expressed the hope that in the coming months,​ similar exercises will be carried out in other sectors such as the media, social media operators, and politics.