2019 Elections: NHRC Moves To Gauge Hate Speech, Fake News

Ahead of the 2019 General Elections, the National Human Rights Commission in collaboration with MacArthur Foundation have organized an interface to address critical issues capable of heating up the polity and disrupting the forth coming elections.

At the interface with key regulators and stakeholders on hate speeches, fake news and electoral violence held at the Bukhari Bello Auditorium of the National Human Rights Commission, the Executive Secretary of the Commission, Tony Ojukwu Esq said there is an urgent need to address the effect of Hate Speeches, Fake News and Election Violence as it affects the upcoming elections and the enjoyment of human rights.

He said the spread of hate speeches and fake news have the prosperity to fan prejudice, incite electoral violence which could rise contentions issues before during and after the elections.  This according to Ojukwu could “give rise to lack of confidence in the electoral process, mutual distrust and ultimately affect the outcome of the acceptance of the election”.

As part of its commitment to create and enabling environment devoid of any rancor for free and fair 2019 General Elections, the NHRC boss said the Commission through her state offices is administering questionnaires to gauge the incidence of hate speech, fake news and electoral violence. “Findings from this survey will enable the Commission put up Directive or an advisory on hate speech, fake news and electoral violence.

Ojukwu said the Commission is proposing the commissioning of social media ambassadors who will promote activities against hate speech, fake news and electoral violence as well as the formation of a coalition against hate, fake and dangerous speech (CAFAHADS). The coalition will be at the vanguard of the campaign against hate, fake and dangerous speeches that undermine the fabric of our democracy and unity and incite violence in the polity.

One of the speakers renown Human Rights Lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN) in his paper titled “legal and policy framework for hate speech, fake news and electoral violence” said Nigeria has enough extant laws in both the panel and the criminal code to deal with issues of hate speeches, fake news and electoral violence.

He stated further that lack of political will to arrest and prosecute the perpetrators of hate speech has become a huge problem. Media organization and individuals who wrongly exercise their rights to freedom of expression “can be pinned from under the law”.

On the role of regulatory agencies in accountability for hate speech, fake news and election related violence, the Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission NBC, Dr. Is’haq Modibo Kawu said regulatory power is a challenge especially during the time of politics as a lot of politician would want to flaunt the NBC laws. He assured that licensees must behave in a responsible manner in carrying out their business otherwise they face sanctions by the Commission.

Mr. Samson Itodo the Executive Director, Youth Initiative for Advocacy Growth and Advancement (YIAGA) who is also the Convener of Not Too Young to Run Advocacy Group said that the Youths constitute about 50% of the voting population in Nigeria. He said democratic institutions need to know how to use young persons to advance democracy and development rather than use them negatively.

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