League of Nigerian Columnists blames FG on hate speech

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Dan Agbese, a former editor-in-chief, Newswatch Magazine in his lecture on hate speech cautions that legislating against hate speech is not enough to protect vulnerable persons

By Anayo Ezugwu

Ahead of 2019 general elections, the League of Nigerian Columnists, LNC, has blamed the federal government for the advent of hate speeches across the country. The columnists’ unanimously condemned hate speech, insisting the media must be fair and non-partisan in its reportage.

Speaking at the at the inaugural lecture of the league in Lagos on the topic, ‘Hate Speech’ Dan Agbese, a former editor-in-chief, Newswatch Magazine and the guest speaker, said hate speech does not just happen. He said it is incubated and given expression when social circumstances make it possible.

He said hate speech is a dangerous product of profiling, which is used in inter and intra racial and ethnic groups, even as profiling could be seemed to be a mild joke. According to him, for anything to qualify as hate speech, it must be explicitly or implicitly directed at persons or group of persons who are different in terms of race, ethnicity religion or sexual orientation.

Agbese added that hate speech is usually intended to cause social, racial, ethnic or religious disharmony and incite violence at persons, or group of persons; it must include verbal and non-verbal communication. Hate speech, he noted must be calculated to injure or traumatise persons, or groups of persons for the purposes of causing the community in which they reside, to deny them their basic human rights and entitlements.

He restated that anti hate speech legislations alone couldn’t stop hate speech and sufficiently protect minority rights anywhere and everywhere.

On his part, Tola Adeniyi, the president, LNC, said hate speech originated from the current government at the centre. He regretted that signing the hate speech bill into law is geared towards guarding the press, those who will draw attention, those who would have spoken about the deficiency of the government and the failing of the government which is all open in the market.

“But they do not want people to speak against them, or shout about them. They feel they can say or talk about them, but we, Nigerians, will refuse that kind of nonsensical legislation,” he said.

In his address, Ray Ekpu, the former chief executive officer of Newswatch Communications Limited, said: “There are 26 countries out of 200 countries that have specific legislation on hate speech. That tells you that either those countries already have legislation that can take care of something that is close to hate speech or hate speech itself or they think that the society does not need any more of such legislation in an era where people are talking about free speech.

“They also might say that they do not want any more imposition particularly in countries like Africa where normal things are turning to abnormal things. In Africa, South Africa has legislation on hate speech; I do not know if there is any other African country but of course we know the peculiarity of South Africa and even with that legislation, you have xenophobia there.

“What is the government doing about it? So there is a difference between having legislation and implementing it. I was in South Africa and I heard the kind of propaganda that was going on there. They will say, well you know when we drive the white men away, we will take over their gold mines and swimming pools. Those things did not happen and they haven’t happened that is why we have the crisis,” he said.

– Dec. 5, 2018 @ 16:45 GMT |

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