In recent times, reading through most articles online – whether in newspapers, blogs or on the numerous online news-and features aggregator sites in the country, one will marvel at the capacity of many Nigerians, including Diaspora-based ones who are presumably living in ‘civilized’ countries, to write with so much hatred. The broadcast media platforms are not exempted from this act. Hate speech is so pervasive in Nigeria that it is doubtful if there are many Nigerians that are completely free from the vice.
Hate speech which employs discriminatory epithets to insult and stigmatize others on the basis of their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or other forms of group membership has resulted in many clashes in Nigeria.
In a quest to combat this heinous crime against humanity, Rogan Leadership and UFUK Dialogue organised a Seminar with the theme ‘Combating Hate Speech in Nigerian Media’.
The seminar which had civil society organisations, public affair analysts, journalists, bloggers and students in attendance, was declared open by Professor (Dr) Hussein Sert, Vice Chancellor, Nile University.
The seminar was moderated by the Chairman, Board of Trustees of the Rogan Leadership Foundation, Dr. Jideofor Adibe. The seminar featured paper presentations from Mannir Dan-Ali, the Chief Executive Officer of Daily Trust; Osita Okechukwu, the Director General, Voice of Nigeria and Chris Ngwodo, a Lawyer, blogger and independent researcher.
Mr. Dan-Ali who presented a paper on ‘Hate Speech in the Print Media’ cited the Rwanda genocide of 1990 as an aftermath of hate speech. He revealed how a radio station was used to incite the people which eventually led to the bloody civil war. He admitted that even though the print media cannot claim to be free from this act, hate speech is more pronounced in the broadcast and social media. This is because the print media has some element of monitoring and editing. Mr. Dan-Ali also warned against extremism which exists in every society. He concluded by advising the media to pay more attention to issues that unite us rather than those that divide us.
Mr. Osita Okechukwu who presented a paper on ‘Hate Speech in the Broadcast Media’ warned that consumers of information from the broadcast media should try to filter some of the stories they consume. He also advised worshipers to be careful of some preachers who are good at spreading false information and messages capable of inciting the public.
Chris Ngwodo while presenting his paper on ‘Between Hate Speech and Freedom of Expression: a Blogger’s Perspective’ blamed democratization of information, proliferation of information technology which boosted freedom of expression, injustice in a plural society, failure of nation building etiquette and lack of civic infrastructure are reasons for hate speech in recent times. He also blamed hate speech on lack of segregated spaces, ethno-regional silos, and sociocultural inbreeding.
After the paper presentations, questions were answered and reactions and contributions were taken from the participants.
The seminar was brought to a close with a presentation of plaques to the paper presenters by Kamil Kemanci, CEO, UFUK Dialogue.