By Alimatou S Bajinka
The Gambia Press Union (GPU) urged journalists to avoid being conduits for the spread of hate speech, ahead of the December election.
“Hate speech cannot be widely spread without the media, and this training is very important for the media practitioners. The media plays a crucial role in either promoting violence or peaceful elections. I am urging colleagues from the media not allow themselves to be used as agents to share hate speech. Politicians would want to use the media platforms to reach a wider audience. The role of the journalists is to ensure we inform the population with the right information that will help maintain peace and stability in the country. As journalists you should be agents of change and not allow yourselves to be used as agents of promoting hate speech,” Mr Muhammed S. Bah, GPU Vice President told journalists on Thursday 23rd September 2021 in his opening remarks at a two-day sensitization workshop on hate speech for 30 journalists scheduled to end on Friday at a local hotel in Bijilo.
The objective of the training is to ensure journalists understand the importance in ensuring peaceful democratic processes and advocate the prevention of violence and hate speech in their daily reporting.
The project is funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and jointly implemented by GPU and Beakanyang.
Mr Nfamara Jawneh, the Executive Director of Beakanyang [an NGO], lauded the importance and timing of the training.
“This is a very important training because there are increasing concerns with regards to hate speech as we are getting closer to the presidential election,” he remarked.
Mr Jawneh told the participants to avoid being used at work to promote hate speech.
“As gatekeepers when you go back to your media houses you should ensure that no one, irrespective of the position they hold, use you to promote hate speech. Sometimes you tune in some of our radios and you can tell that what is being discussed is hate speech, and it incites violence, which the media should clear away from.
“As gatekeepers, we advise you to ensure that your media houses are not to be used as a mechanism or tool to promote hate speech,” he said.
However, the Beakanyang Executive Director distinguished free speech from hate speech, saying freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, but one cannot use a media platform to castigate others or incite violence in society.
The capacity building followed a validation on 18th September 2021 of a research report on hate speech.
The Gambia Press Union in partnership with the University of the Gambia Students’ Union commissioned the research on hate speech to establish its prevalence, propagators, and the motivation for spreading it.
Stakeholders from different occupations including university students, media and civil society, ahead of its validation, reviewed the document.