Say No to Hate Speech
This week, I fear we have reached another acute moment in the use of hate speech, and I am using this editorial to add the voice of Sierra News to that of many Sierra Leoneans who are calling for the outright rejection of hate speech.
Hate speech is a form of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that attacks, or uses pejorative or discriminatory language to reference a person or group based on religion, ethnicity and nationality. Hate speech is almost invariably rooted in intolerance. It demeans, divides and incites people against each other. There are national and international laws that prohibit incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence. Incitement is dangerous as it explicitly and deliberately aims at triggering discrimination, hostility and violence. It has associations with terrorism and atrocious crimes against humanity.
In one of the darkest chapters in recent human history, more than one million people were systematically killed in Rwanda due to incitements spurred by hate speech. Closer to home, we recall recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa and religious intolerance in Nigeria. Over the past few weeks, social media in Sierra Leone has been disturbed by the emergence of audios that carry hate language against political opponents. The ease of sharing materials through social media has facilitated such materials being shared widely. Is the Sierra Leonean public discourse being weaponised through the hateful voices of a very few people?
Countrymen and women! We have come a long way as a nation. We have seen the worse and we have done worst to ourselves. Evidence of the damage we have done to ourselves are all around us. The emergence of hate language in our media space is therefore a troubling development. Hate speech is threatening to take hold of our lives. Its propagation threatens our values, our human rights, our social stability and our peace. With each broken norm, the pillars of our society are threatened. The stack irony is that we can ill-afford the consequence of hate speech.
Our country faces very enormous challenges. We have many of our people living below the poverty line. We have a challenge to create jobs for the teeming masses of youthful citizens. We live within a world economic order that is so formidably stack against us. Why then should we be expending energies in trying hard to hate each other? What is even more sad is the fact that most of the hate speeches are founded on politics? How unfortunate!
Some of us are old enough to remember the civil strife we subjected ourselves to. According to the Truth and Reconciliation report, the overwhelming majority of atrocities were committed by Sierra Leoneans against Sierra Leoneans. Fighting factions targeted civilians, especially women. And while we fought, outsiders backed by local conspirators looted the wealth of our nation. We have so strenuously, albeit admirably recovered from war to peace. We have demonstrated the ability to overcome our differences and show understanding, kindness, justice and reconciliation.
Internet and social media are priceless, powerful tools that we can put to better use. Instead of using it to spread hate and incitement, let us use social media to create opportunities for brainstorming ideas on how to get ourselves out of the economic quicksand we find ourselves in. Our poverty and state of underdevelopment do not know political colour and spreading hate and incitement will not solve any of our problems.
By all means let us disagree where we have to. But let us not hate each other in the name of politics. It is not worth it. Democracy has inherent mechanism for resolving disputes. Where it comes to it, let us avail ourselves of our agreed prescribed mechanisms. Hate and violence are no options because hate begets hate and violence begets violence. We have had enough of both and need no more. Devoid of political colouration, let's put our voices and energies together to condemn hate speech. It has no place in modern Sierra Leone.
Your Sierra News stands with Government, all political parties, civil society organisations, private sector and others to support the building of a Sierra Leone that is resolutely against hate speech.
Lonta ka da Bai! For Love of Mama Salone
Yeama Sarah Thompson