The Federal Government on Thursday in Abuja urged the media not to offer their platforms to communicate hate among the people.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, made the call while declaring open a Workshop on Hate Speech titled: “Hate Communication in Nigeria: Identifying it’s Roots and Remedies”.
The workshop organised by the Nigeria Press Council in collaboration with Word and Image Ltd., was chaired by the Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria, Bayo Onanuga.
The minister noted that the fastest way to nip the dangers of hate speech in the bud was for journalists to say no to the trend.
Mohammed said: “I have always said that hate speech is not free speech.
“For example, while the Nigerian Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, it does not guarantee freedom of hate speech.
“That’s because hate speech could be the precursor of violence, of genocide!”
The Minister recalled the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which left at least 800,000 people dead, noting that hate speech was a major catalyst of the killings.
He said the media played a major role in inciting extremists from the Hutu majority in that country to slaughter ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
Mohammed noted that a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-religious society like Nigeria could not afford to allow hate speech to thrive.
He said: “A fledgling democracy like ours is too fragile to luxuriate in hate speech. We must all say NO to hate speech.”
The minister congratulated the organisers of the workshop for its timeliness considering the background of worsening cases of hate speech in public discourse.
Mohammed said he was also delighted at the level of attention been given to the issue of hate speech especially by the media.
He said: “The fact that the media takes this issue seriously is very encouraging, because, in most cases, the media – wittingly or unwittingly – provides the platform for the dissemination of hate speech.
“But I can say here, unequivocally, that the Nigerian media understands the dangers of hate speech.”
Senator Suleiman Adoke, Chairman Senate Committee on Information, said that hate speech is a global challenge to the extent that social media is being considered for censorship.
He called on the politicians and media practitioners in the country to be cautious of the trend in order not to throw the country into crisis.