Lai: If unchecked, hate speech trend could become a hydra-headed monster

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Lai Mohammed, minister of information and culture, has said that the trend of hate speeches in Nigeria could become a hydra-headed monster if left unaddressed.

He said for Nigeria to achieve a just and egalitarian society, appropriate laws must be enacted to check hate speeches.

The minister made this known while speaking on Tuesday night in Lagos at the conference dinner of the first West Africa regional round of the Oxford prize media law moot court competition.

He raised concern over the growing prevalence of hate speeches in the country, stating that the fast growing trend constitutes a threat to national peace and security.

“Hate speech is becoming increasingly prevalent in all areas of our national endeavour, including religious, social, political and communal life.

“Experts, therefore, alerted that the level, trend and occurrence of hate speech constitute a threat to the peace, unity and security of the country.

“The phenomenon, if left unchecked could grow to become a hydra-headed monster which latently and silently creates a Rwandan-type experience,’’ he said.

While admitting that section 39 (1) of the 1999 constitution guarantees freedom of expression, he noted that section 45 (1) of the same constitution provides a caveat that the freedom shall not undermine public safety, public order and national peace.

The minister recalled that in the run-up to the 2015 presidential election, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) observed and condemned a rise in hate speech.

Mohammed noted that the enactment of such a law is not new, citing several examples of other countries where hate speech and hate crimes are penalised.

“Belgian law penalises public announcements of intention to discriminate, hate or perpetrate violence against persons on grounds of race, colour, origin, descent or nationality.

“Danish law also forbids public statements that threaten, insult or degrade on account of race, skin colour, national/ethnic origin, faith or sexual orientation.

“In the same vein, Sweden punishes racial agitation, which includes expressions that threaten or demonstrate contempt on the grounds of race, colour, national/ethnic affiliation or religious belief,” he said.

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Source: The Cable
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