Falana blames increase in hate speech, fake news to absence of political will

Rights activist, Femi Falana (SAN) blamed the rising spate of hate speech and fake news the absence of political will on the part the government to ensure effective application of existing laws.

Falana noted that there were enough laws in the nation’s statute books to deal with the challenge of hate speech, fake news and electoral violence.

He argued that the problem exists in the lack of political will on the part of those in authorities to apply the laws.

Falana spoke in Abuja at “an interface with key regulators and stakeholders on hate speeches, fake news and election violence,” held by the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation.

The rights activist cautioned against the practice of forwarding of fake text messages with hate speeches, because of the stringent punishment that will be meted out to anyone found guilty of hate speech and spreading fake news.

Falana urged politicians to learn to do away with hate speech and fake news.

NHRC’s Executive Secretary, Tony Ojukwu said his agency has initiated measures to address the growing deployment of hate speech by politicians.

Ojukwu said NHRC was aware of the danger of hate speech and fake news, particularly in election year, and has taken the initiative to curb their uses.

He said some of the measures being deployed by his agency include plans for the the formation of a Coalition Against Hate, Fake and Dangerous Speeches (CAFAHADS) and the appointment of social media ambassadors to promote activities against hate, fake speeches and election violence.

Ojukwu, who disclosed that his commission was also planning a survey, to gauge the incidence of hate speech, fake news and electoral violence throughout the six geopolitical zones in the country.

He said findings from the survey will enable the Commission put up directive or an advisory on hate speeches, fake news and electoral violence, with a view to creating an enabling environment for free and fair 2019 general elections.

Ojukwu noted that hate speech and fake news were capable of inciting electoral violence before, during and after the elections.

He noted that hate speech and fake news could also lower public confidence in the electoral process, create mutual distrust and ultimately affect the acceptance of the outcome of the election.

Ojukwu added: “This has become a potent tool in the hands of individuals and groups that wish to truncate our democratic governance.”

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