Central Africa Communication Ministers Discuss Ways to Stop Hate Speech 0

Communication ministers from the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS, are meeting in Bangui, Central African Republic, this week to map out ways to stop the spread of hate speech.

Officials from central African states say some influential politicians, business moguls and community leaders are using radio, television and social media to propagate information that has fueled regional crises, resulting in the displacement of millions of people.

Simplice Mathieu Sarandji, prime minister of the Central African Republic, said leaders of the 11-member ECCAS expect communication ministers at the meeting in Bangui to propose lasting solutions to xenophobic statements that are propagated on media outlets.

Sarandji said humanitarian crises are spiraling in ECCAS states because of widespread hate speech.

A separatist crisis in western Cameroon, which has killed more than 6,000 people, was fueled in part by social media propaganda by rebel leaders who are based in Europe and the United States, according to Cameroonian officials.

Hate on social media also fueled an ongoing conflict between ranchers and fishers in northern Cameroon and Chad. Clashes there have killed more than 100 people and displaced more than 80,000.

The 1994 genocide in Rwanda was sparked by hate speech, mostly over radio, by Hutu extremists against Tutsis.

Joanne Adamson, deputy head of MINUSCA, the U.N. stabilization mission in the Central African Republic, spoke about the Bangui meeting on state TV in the CAR.

She said the focus on hate speech is an important step toward finding solutions to fighting that sparked a mass movement of people fleeing in search of safety. By organizing the forum, Adamson added, the 11 ECCAS member states indicate they are ready to support and defend values that are vital to consolidate peace and security and promote human rights.

The ministers said they will enact legislation to punish people who use TV, radio and print media to propagate hate speech, but gave no further details. They also have agreed to control harmful content they say runs rampant on social media.

Charly Gabriel Mbock, an anthropologist and conflict resolution specialist at the Yaounde-headquartered Catholic University of Central Africa, said the ministers should launch campaigns against hate speech in restive central African towns and villages.

To do this, Mbock said, ECCAS communication ministers must educate clerics and traditional rulers that peace is priceless, before using radio, television and print media to call on civilians to reject and denounce calls for violence, especially on social media. He said central African governments should also make sure media laws being prepared against hate and xenophobic language do not infringe on press freedom.

The communication ministers say they will submit their recommendations to ECCAS governments with the hope that if hate speech and xenophobic statements can be stopped, peace will return to restive areas.

Source: VOA