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Ambassador Takada speech at the reception ceremony of FIRE Conference

2 March 2022

Honorable Madam Blerina Gjylameti, Member of the Parliamentary Committee for Media and Means of Public Education,

Dear Executive Director Murra,

Dear friends and colleagues from the Western Balkans Fund, media experts, journalists, academics, civil society representatives, students

Good Evening and welcome to Tirana

I’m Ambassador of Japan to Albania, Mitsuyuki Takada.

Thank you for joining us today at this Inter-regional Conference to discuss ways to fight against hate speech and defamation. Many of you had to travel a long distance to be here, so thank you very much for coming.

Before getting into the main subject, I’d like to make some remarks of Ukraine situation. It’s devastating to see what’s happing in Ukraine right now. My prayers and solidarity goes to people of Ukraine & to those families who have been affected by the Russian invasion. Japan stands together with the people of Ukraine & supports their actions to defend their sovereignty, territory, homeland and their families. We will provide humanitarian support to Ukraine during these difficult times. Japan has joined the European Union, the United States of America and the international community in condemning the invasion of Ukraine and is taking strong sanction against Russia. I hope that the conflict will be resolved very soon and everything will settle down perfectly.

With regard to tonight’s event, I’d like to express my great thanks to, in particular, Mr. Gjergj Murra, Ms. Dafina Beqiri, and the staff of the Western Balkans Fund for their hard work in preparing this conference. This is our third project together and a very good indicator of the importance Japan attaches to strengthening cooperation and advancing the integration of the Western Balkan region.

I’d like to note that this year, the International Visegrad Fund (IVF) has agreed to join efforts with us. This is the first time that the IVF and Japan fund together a project of the Western Balkans Fund. In this context, this project is an excellent example of Japan’s cooperation with the V4 in the Western Balkans and I am pleased to find the “V4 plus Japan” in the Western Balkans’ is making a successful start.

I learned that many interesting topics will be discussed in the next three days, especially about the impact of hate speech on the members of vulnerable groups, such as young people suffering from cyberbullying, or women being subjected to gender-based discrimination. This conference also will touch upon the use of hate speech as a means to incite violence, undermine social cohesion and tolerance, and promote xenophobia, racism, antisemitism, anti-Muslim hatred.

As these phenomena are becoming more common across in the world, and human rights are being threatened more and more. So promoting a culture of tolerance and mutual respect within two regions, the Western Balkans and the Visegrad is becoming more important than ever.

I hope that you will enjoy your time here, and learn broadly about countering hate speech and how much works still needs to be done in creating an environment where interactions with others are fair and respectful. Your position, on its own, allows you to do much in this regard, as it entitles many of you to intervene in an appropriate manner promoting dialogue and cooperation.

In closing, I would like to wish the WBF successful implementation of this project and reiterate the commitment of the Government of Japan to continue supporting both regions, working together, and finding new concrete possibilities for cooperation.

Thank you indeed.