Abuja, January 23, 2015 – The National Human Rights Commission in a social media discussion Friday expressed deep concerns over the increasing use of hate speech by partisans of political parties ahead of the 2015 general elections.
The discussion on Twitter dubbed “Hate Speech and the 2015 election” and archived with the hashtag #NoHateSpeechNG was anchored by Tolu Ogunlesi, a multiple international award winning journalist and political commentator, and featured Professor Chidi Odinkalu, the chairman of National Human Rights Commission.
Odinkalu, via his Twitter handle @chairmanNHRC, defined hate speech as “including the ridicule and slander of persons, incitement to hate, contempt, threat of violence and discrimination against people because of their race, ethnicity, identity, belief, opinion”.
He said there are laws, especially the Electoral Act, that define, prohibit and punish hate speech during election campaign periods in Nigeria. He also said Nigeria is bound by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which further prohibits hate speech.
“#Hatespeech is even more serious in elections because of heightened public sensitivities: it precedes election violence #NoHateSpeechNg”, tweeted Odinkalu. “Crimes related to #Hatespeech and election violence are found in Sections 94-102 of the #ElectoralAct”.
The description of a political party as having “Janjaweed ideology” or name calling a party “PDpigs” or its members as “cockroaches”, publishing death insinuation adverts, are examples of criminal hate speech, Odinkalu said. He added that free expression, though a human right, doesn’t protect one from hate speech.
Scores of Twitter discussants on the topic called on the NHRC to enforce existing laws to serve as deterrent to politicians, clergy, public officials, and other offenders using the social and traditional news media to disseminate hate messages.
Odinkalu said the Commission was now more willing than ever to take all measures to prevent further acts of hate speech during the elections.
He called for volunteers to become part of an Election Violence Incident Centre which would monitor and collate hate speech offenders for onward prosecution.
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