Following the presentation of the hate speech bill which its activists said will regulate the use of social media, some Nigerians believe it is the federal government’s clandestine attempt to muzzle freedom of expressions in the country. Against this backdrop, a civil society group, Justice Makers Initiative Civil Group, has urged media houses, faith leaders and Nigerians to be guided in their publications, teachings and social media activities. It said not doing so can promote chaos and division among religious and ethnic groups in the society.
The executive director, Justice Makers Initiative, Mr Patrick Dunkwu, urged all stakeholders to discourage the use of hate speech/publications in the country, saying that might harm the government, warning about the negative effects hate speeches can have on the country’s reputation.
He stated this during a two-day event tagged: “Justice Makers Media-Civil Society Forum,” recently held in Lagos, urging all media professionals and faith leaders in attendance to shun all forms of publications and speeches that instigate hate and division among religious and ethnic groups. He added that peace and unity are the only measures that bring progress in a nation.
Dunkwu said: “For the pupose of clarity, this interactive forum became necessary, having observed the manner in which hate publications/speech were being made lately on social media platforms. So it became a necessity to hold an interactive session where faith leaders and media professionals and the public will attend to collectively proffer long-lasting solutions to the disturbing menace. The purpose might be seen against the background of recent happenings in Nigeria. With the increasing rate of hate publications and speeches particularly by the media and faith leaders which are most often dictated by bias, it became obvious that there are no existing standards and policies by the media and faith institutions in Nigeria for checking publications geared to instigate hate, and even where standards and policies exist, they are not completely adhered to.
“Furthermore, many media professionals and faith leaders lack the necessary skills and professional capacity to understand what amounts to hate speeches and publications, and the grave consequences of such publications. It is with this in mind that the Justice Makers Initiative embarked on a two-day Media-Civil Society Forum with a view to developing the capacities of media professionals and faith leaders, to identify and stop publications that contain hate speeches.
“On this note, we appeal to the media and faith leaders to encourage publications and preach messages that promote Nigeria’s ethnic and religious cohesion and as well, bring peace in the nation. They have a central and crucial role to play towards ending hate publications/speech in Nigeria, because they are actively and directly engaged with the local communities where they have a huge readership and followers, and therefore are well positioned to play prominent roles by educating and influencing the people on the dangers of hate publications/speeches.”
He said the civil group aims to promote equity and justice among every Nigerian, while appreciating the support of the KAICIID Dialogue Centre, Austria, a sister civil group of the Justice Makers Initiative. Dunkwu disclosed that the group is also envisioned to ensure that Nigerians obey government rules and not flout them.
“The mission of the group is to create a sustainable capacity in the civil society for the legal protection of human rights and public interest, towards improving the regime of good governance, rule of law, and administration of justice in Nigeria, as well as increase awareness and expertise among a wide range of Nigeria’s civil society, ethnic and religious communities to promote inter-faith and inter-cultural co-existence, and cooperation in Nigeria.
“Justice Makers Initiative is strictly a non-governmental, non-profit organisation comprising legal practitioners and other professionals. Its core objectives is to offer free legal services that give justice to indigent victims of human rights violation, and promote good governance. We also preach and advise the practice of peace advocacy, peace education and conflict resolution/management among Nigerians,” he added.