Tirana opens the 14th Festival for LGBTI Rights in Albania, with the forum dedicated to hate speech

17 May 2023 – The PINK Embassy Albania opened this morning the 14th Festival of Diversity for LGBTI Rights in Albania and the series of activities within the framework of 17 May – the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, Biphobia and Lesbophobia (IDAHOT), which will finalise with the Pride March, to be held on May 20.

The opening of the festival took place around ten o'clock in the morning with a surprise Flashmob in front of the University of Tirana, under the motto: Lets Raise together the LGBTI flag, to continue an hour later with the organisation of the National Forum: "Together against language and hate crimes against the LGBTIQ community and other vulnerable communities in Albania".

The forum, which was supported by the office of the Council of Europe in Tirana and the European Union, was organized in cooperation with the State Police and the Ministry of Health and Social Protection. Hate speech and hate crimes, especially in online media and social networks, have become a concern not only for LGBTI community, but also for many other social groups. It is increasingly spreading in social networks, influencing the formation of a climate of punishment, prejudice, and inequality between people.

At the opening of the Forum and in her welcome speech, Mrs. Denada Dibra, deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection highlighted the fact that the institution she leads is not only at the vanguard of the actions and measures that the Albanian Government has taken in support of LGBTI persons, but on the other hand, they have decided as a priority that in the next three-five, LGBTI friendly services will be established in the main municipalities of Albania.

Last year, within the framework of IDAHOT, the PINK Embassy and iSIGURT.al publicly presented the national platform for reporting online hate crimes and hate speech online, as a tool in the hands of citizens to seek help and report and prevent hate crimes. In this context, Borjana Dine from iSIGURT presented the data collected throughout 2022 regarding the reported cases of hate speech, emphasizing the fact that it is affecting the younger ages, which are less informed and protected from hate speech. Meanwhile, Klaudio Pulaha from ALO116 Albania and Olsi Sherifi from Rromano Kham presented specific cases of hate speech against teenagers perceived as LGBTI and the portrayal of the Roma community in Albania by the media.

In the second panel of the Forum, which focused on effective initiatives against hate speech, Alma Katragjini shared with the participants the experience of the National Police that, in cooperation with LGBTI organizations, organized information sessions and training courses with leaders and senior officials of the Police in twelve districts of Albania to increase their information and awareness on hate crimes, while sharing with them the Police Manual for the Investigation of Hate Crimes against LGBTI persons.

While the representatives of independent human rights institutions, Robert Gajda - Commissioner for Protection from Discrimination and Olta Aliaj - Commissioner for Children's Rights in the Office of the Ombudsperson, emphasized the need for more awareness and education, which can reduce online and offline hate speech. Due to the spread of hate speech online, the role of the Internet industry becomes extremely important, especially in terms of crime prevention. Ledina Ferhati, representative of the ONE telecoms company, shared their experiences in promoting an even closer cooperation between the industry, civil society and public institutions.

The special guest of the Forum was Luana Myrto, from Ylberofilia, one of the most successful transgender people in Albania and a fearless activist for the protection of the rights of the transgender community. She shared with all the participants her experiences in dealing with hate speech and hate crimes, having a critical approach towards institutions and the police, which in her opinion should do more for the protection of transgender people, as they are the ones who mostly face hate crimes.

The forum was attended by over 30 participants from public institutions in Albania, civil society organizations as well as representatives of Embassies in Albania, whose support for LGBTI rights is often essential for the community.

The Festival of Diversity, conceived and organized every year by the PINK Embassy and partners, is the only one of its kind in Albania dedicated to the LGBTI community, where awareness-raising activities are combined with artistic and advocacy activities, such as the Pride March. The purpose of the festival, since the first year of its organization, is to increase the awareness of citizens and authorities on the state of LGBTI rights in Albania, while change and eliminate negative social attitudes related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

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