Charles Abani (left), United Nations Resident Coordinator, addressing participants in the public forum. Picture: ALBERTA MORTTY
Charles Abani (left), United Nations Resident Coordinator, addressing participants in the public forum. Picture: ALBERTA MORTTY

Don't champion hate speech - Media cautioned

Ghana’s media has been cautioned against leading dialogues that promote hate speech.

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Rather, it must engage in responsible dialogues that promote unity among diverse communities and also develop mechanisms that swiftly address complaints and rectify any misinformation or hate speech that may be disseminated.

The UN Resident Coordinator, Charles Abani, gave the caution when he addressed a forum on "Media, Hate Speech and Democratic Consolidation in Ghana" in Accra yesterday.

The forum was organised by Media Foundation For West Africa (MFWA), the National Peace Council (NPC) and the National Media Commission (NMC) to promote tolerance, peace and diversity to unify the nation.

No platform for abuse

Hate speech has been defined as abusive or threatening speech or writing that expresses prejudice based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or similar grounds.

Mr Abani said although the Constitution guaranteed freedom of speech and opinion, the media should not allow its platforms to be used to propagate and incite violence, given the power it wielded

Rather, it must make its platform available to be used for good, because it was a major source of information and acted as a catalyst for shaping public opinion, and for influencing societal trends.

"Let us make no mistake.

Hate speech is divisive and inimical to peace and security, and it cannot simply be ignored”.

“It is profitable to those who perpetrate it.

It gains traction in the minds of those who consume it.

It must not be side-stepped as an ‘inconvenience’.

We have to act in bold and decisive ways", he said. 

Digital Media

Mr Abani noted that the rapid expansion of media platforms, particularly digital media and the rise of citizen-led media, had also given rise to some grave concerns, blurring the fine line between hate speech and freedom of speech, which is a fundamental right.  

To consolidate democracy, he said it was crucial to strike a balance between freedom of expression and combating hate speech.

“Ghana's democracy can thrive only if we recognise the power and influence of the media, while taking decisive action to curb hate speech.

Let us work together to create an environment where the media acts as a catalyst for informed debates, social cohesion and democratic progress”, he stressed.

Lead by example

Leaders, Mr Abani further emphasised, must lead by example, setting the highest standards and discouraging hate speech of any form or on any platform.

“If we want a society where we are free from this, then leaders must hold themselves to the highest standards possible — no excuses.

And not only must they hold themselves to those high standards, they must confront it with clear courage of conviction wherever it rears its ugly head and certainly among their followers.

He commended the efforts of the National Peace Council and National Media Commission for the recent launch of Guidelines on Hate Speech and other forms of Indecent Expressions in Ghana which was aimed at sanitising the airwaves from needless verbal utterances against personalities and tribal, ethnic, religious based, culturally-divisive discriminations.

The Chairman of Peace Council, Rev Dr Ernest Adu-Gyamfi, said his outfit in partnership with the NMC and the MFWA had developed the Guidelines on hate speech and other forms of indecent expressions.

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This was to guide all citizens, officials of various institutions and political actors in the performance of their duties and engagements with each other, especially in the media space.

“It is to help us act in a responsible manner to promote tolerance, inclusion and respect for each other”, he said.

GJA peace statement

The President of the Ghana Journalists Association, Albert Kwabena Dwumfour, pledging the association’s commitment to promote peace, said the GJA as the umbrella organisation for individuals and organisations that controlled the media space in the nation would continue to promote peace and discourage anything that would breach the peace of the country.

 “We are a significant stakeholder in peacebuilding and ensuring the safety of the citizenry.

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Indeed, we have used our various platforms to promote peace in the country over the years, and we vow to do more to ensure that the nation's peace is not breached as we approach a crucial general election next year,” he stated.

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