The media can help banish hate speech

This week, hundreds of African media professionals converged in Kigali to tackle a very thorny issue: hate speech. The programme was part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Nowhere did hate speech cause more harm than in Rwanda before and during the Genocide. It was therefore fitting for delegates to draw lessons from the epicenter where state sponsored-hate was implemented.

This week, hundreds of African media professionals converged in Kigali to tackle a very thorny issue: hate speech.

The programme was part of the commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Nowhere did hate speech cause more harm than in Rwanda before and during the Genocide. It was therefore fitting for delegates to draw lessons from the epicenter where state sponsored-hate was implemented.

One thing that came out clearly in the two-day conference was that hate speech was still well and truly present today. Combating it has become even more difficult in this age of the-difficult-to-control social media and the proliferation of private radio and TV stations.

The dangers of hate speech taking on the dimensions of the Rwandan experience is looming, and the outbursts of several armed conflicts on the continent are not making things any easier

Curbing hate speech in the media therefore should be a priority, but it can only succeed if media owners would act in tandem and put their foot down and wed out unprofessional behaviour from their newsrooms.

African media organisations should not remain passive in the face of hate messages doing the rounds; they should speak on one voice and condemn it wherever it appears. They should not let the lame “freedom of speech” excuse flourish. Hate speech is not free speech.

 

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