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Powerful men regularly incite hatred against her, so she mobilized volunteers to fight back with kin

Entered in Documentary


This powerful short doc profiles the work of gender equality activist, Nika Kovac, and her team as they fight rising levels of online hate in Slovenia. Her team, who form the 8th March institute, were regular targetted by the country’s former Prime Minister as well as multiple far-right groups. As typically happens, violence online led to violence offline.


Despite having powerful adversaries, Kovac came up with an innovative way to counter trolling: she mobilized what she calls a “love army” who, whenever trolling begins, respond by overwhelming digital feeds with positive messages instead. The women also tour the country, recruiting more people to join their campaign, with the ultimate goal of changing national laws relating to online abuse.

The video enables audiences to see Nika’s eyes and understand what it’s like to be targeted by powerful people online and their supporters, because of your gender and your work. We see the harms that can come from online hate, which include physical violence in the physical world.

Ultimately, the video tells a story of hope, resilience, and community, showing how a group of citizens can respond to state-sponsored hate with a message of kindness. Though the story set in Slovenia, this message resonates around the world as we see more far-right leaders using digital tools to spread hate and women and gender minorities often find themselves the targets.


In the making of the film, it was important to highlight the influence of far-right and populist groups on online hate speech to show how Nika and her team navigate this hostile space with their project. At first sight, against the backdrop of constant online harassment and even death threats, their ‘Only Love’ campaign can seem ill-suited for the task; a playful project involving heart emojis and unicorns. But through the video, a very different picture emerges, one that shows how brave and resilient the characters are.


Even though Nika leads the 8th of March Institute, we also wanted to show the power of their group acting together, as heroes never become heroes on their own. However, driving attention by filming with them in their everyday lives in places where news spread quickly didn’t come without risks. During the making of the video, CNN had extensive discussions with Nika and her team to ensure their safety, both during filming as well as after publication. 


Part of our strategy was also to ensure that we protected the characters in our video from any potential violence telling the story might attract. So, it was important that Nika and her team understood the CNN’s reach before agreeing to be filmed and understood the risks that come from greater visibility. But they were adamant about speaking up and so CNN’s field reporting team put various measures in place to reduce any risks to safety. 


To start, the CNN team analyzed locations and events the group were planning to attend and monitored online activity and on social media for any signs that far-right activists may be present.  When filming in Nika’s house, the CNN crew ensured the location was not identifiable.   When editing the video, ethical decisions were made regarding the type of online abusive content we would include to get the issue across without amplifying those hateful messages. Instead of showing some of the more hateful text, such as racist and sexist statements, CNN came up with on-screen graphics that explained what certain tweets were about without showing the original offensive language. Prior to publication, the CNN team anticipated Nika and her team might become the target of online hate and shared websites and online tools  to help them improve their cybersecurity. 


Finally, we were in close contact with Nika and her team about the timings of our right of replies to the former Prime Minister, Janes Jansa, to ensure the activists would be ready in the case of any retaliation. This decision, while not usual protocol, was made for their safety and was justified as they did receive abuse and targetted online messages soon after the requests from CNN were sent.  CNN kept the activist team informed of the date of publication, which allowed Nika to make the decision to leave Llubijiana for a few weeks to stay in a safe location.


When the video was published, it inspired additional coverage: articles were also written based on our reporting by multiple news outlets in Slovenia and Eastern Europe more widely.


Cuts of the video were made for TikTok and TV and the video was also picked up by Slovenian media and shared widely on social media, including by the current Slovenian Prime Minister, Robert Golob. The video had more than 100,000 views across CNN digital platforms, and more than 180,000 views on CNN Twitter.


All this attention led to Nika Kovac being invited on Slovenian national TV to talk about the ways her organization is addressing online hate. We are told it also contributed to strengthening Nika’s work with the current government on initiatives to tackle hate speech online.


Video for Powerful men regularly incite hatred against her, so she mobilized volunteers to fight back with kin

Entrant Company / Organization Name

CNN Worldwide

Entry Credits