Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Prof Mahmood Yakubu, has described hate speech as a social vice which poses a threat to social peace and tranquillity.
Yakubu who was represented by the Acting Director, Voter Education and Publicity, made this known while speaking at the iVerify project launch organised by the International Press Centre in Abuja on Monday.
According to him, hate speech is a threat to social peace and poses a significant danger to the electoral process with the potential to incite divisiveness, and bigotry and erode the principle of democracy and equality.
The INEC boss explained further that the key dangers of hate speech to the electoral process include, but are not limited to:
“Undermines democratic values. It undermines the core principles of democracy such as respect for human rights, equality and fair treatment of all individuals, using inflammatory language to target individuals based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender and other characteristics. Hate speech can perpetrate discrimination and exclusion, contradicting the fundamental values of a democratic society.
“Disrupts social cohesion. It can fuel social division and exaggerate tension within communities.
“Incite violence and intolerance. Hate speech has the potential to incite violence and discrimination against targeted groups. It can provoke hostility and aggression, leading to acts of harassment intimidation and even physical violence in the context of the electoral process. This can disrupt the peaceful conduct of elections.
“Undermines political discourse. It can shift attention away from substantive discussion and policies and;
“Undermine trust in the institution. The proliferation of hate speech in the electoral process can erode public trust in democratic institutions, including the electoral system, political leadership and the media.”
Also speaking at the event, the Executive Director of the International Press Centre, Lanre Arogundade, expressed the need to strengthen the fight against the disturbing phenomenon of information disorder exemplified by rising disinformation, misinformation, mal-information and hate speech, especially in the electoral and democratic processes.
According to him, to achieve this, there is a need for capacity building for journalists on fact-checking of electoral information and the democratic processes; the need to promote media literacy and engagement in public enlightenment and
Collaboration to strengthen advocacy for the enabling environment for credible information dissemination.
The chairman said the emphasis has been that journalists should be detectives of disinformation and should regularly arm themselves with fact-checking tools, insisting that making use of fact-checking methods in the gathering and dissemination of electoral information and setting aside their political biases or partisan prejudices could enable the reporter to present to the public what is factual and not the opinionated ones in their heads.
“The effort at curbing disinformation will not bring about the desired result if the concept of media literacy is not fully embraced as a way of educating journalists, other media professionals and the public,” he added.