The Senate Committee Chairman on Public Affairs, Senator Abdullahi Sabi, has called for the enactment of a law to deal with the issue of hate speech and press freedom in the country.
Sabi, who is also the sponsor of Anti-hate Speech Bill, made the call at a workshop organised for journalists by the U.S. Embassy on Friday in Abuja to mark the 2018 World Press Freedom Day.
He said that the call became necessary considering the fact that hate speeches had become a problem for the country.
He said: “You will agree with me that Nigeria has been in the briefcase over the past 17 to 18 years that we have been in this phase of our democracy.
“A lot has happened, we have made progress, but we are still facing a lot of challenges and you will agree with me that we have had a lot of violence.
“We are still having this violence; now experts through various studies have confirmed that for every episode of violence in Nigeria, especially arising from politics, hate speech preceded it.
“Life surely matters because if your own loved ones have been killed innocently, for no just cause as a result of somebody’s careless utterances, you will understand that the hate speech that led to the taking of lives is something we must condemn.”
He identified religious and ethnic sentiments to be major factors causing hate speech.
He, therefore, urged journalists to always guard against such in their reportage of events.
Also speaking, Linda Hervieux, an international freelance journalist/photographer, said that there was a thin line between hate speech and free speech.
She decried hate speech, describing it as an offence that abuses a person or group through written or visual publications.
She also advised journalists to uphold the ethics of the profession.
According to her, everyone has a right to freedom of expression, but that must not supercede national laws on hate speech.
She said: “When journalists’ independence of free speech casts its sceptical eye on efforts to restrict free speech they are to ask themselves certain questions.
“The first one is, how sound will the institutions and public officials who impose those restrictions?
“The second is are they honest; what are their interests; is there a hidden agenda behind their cause.
“And finally, is their effort enough in protecting people that are silencing critics of the government?’’
In a remark, Aruna Amirthanayagan, US Embassy Counselor for Public Affairs, said that the event was organised to create the much needed awareness on the danger of hate speech.
He said the event was “timely because it is in a bid to commemorate the day.
Amirthanyagan said: “This is apt in terms of promotion of freedom of the press, which can bring about meaningful development in public and foreign sphere of Journalism.”
NAN reports that the day is celebrated globally on May 2 and 3 of every
This year’s celebration has ‘Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law’ as the theme.