On 15th October, 2016 the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) organized a one day Public Sensitization Workshop on Monitoring and Countering of Hate and Dangerous Speech in Country Home Hotel, Jos, Plateau State. The event started at 9:00am with registration of the participants, self introduction and then pretest session aimed at assessing the knowledge level of the participants about the concept of Hate and Dangerous Speech as well as Countering segment of it.
As scheduled on the agenda, Understanding Hate and Dangerous Speech session took the stage with Isah Garba, the Project Coordinator as facilitator who began by displaying images of what happed in Rwanda and gave a detailed background of the conflict to make audience understand the concept and danger of hate speech in order to clearly draw lessons that can be learned by the participants especially in a state that has experienced conflict between people of different tribal and religious backgrounds who lived for years in peace and harmony. Isah Garba said there is no single definition of hate speech which is accepted globally by all scholars but, any speech that fall under one of these baselines: discriminate, loot, riot, beat, forcefully evict or kill or put people to action against a particular group of people or person because of their tribe, religion, ethnicity, region, political party, gender, disability or resources, that can be regarded as hate speech.
During the presentation Garba called on all the participants to nurture and fully consider their historical and traditional methodology of maintaining peace by cracking jokes among themselves, such jokes that exist between FULANI and BAREBARI, KANAWA and ZAZZAGAWA, KATSINAWA and GOBIRAWA/HADEJAWA or among occupations like BUTCHERS and CATTLE REARERS etc, that will further strengthen understanding and promote cohesion. After his presentation, the Project Coordinator entertained questions and the need for clarification on various points raised as can be seen below:
- A participant Umar Farouq Musa asked: is it possible to have intra-religion hate speech?
Yes there are, hate speech within the Christian communities just because of different perspectives as far as Christianity is concerned with other groups. For example, it happened to me, a friend of mine who is a Christian invited me to an occasion, when we arrived there he saw another man who was also a Christian but he sent him away, and I told him that the man was a Christian also but he said he doesn’t regard him as a Christian at all, and the reason is because of their difference in perspective. So also among the Muslims, we have seen what happened recently with Shiites, they have been discriminated, injured, and even killed because of their difference with other Islamic sects. That is why in the definition we said a group and group can be inter or intra. So, there is no limitation in as much as segment of the people have been discriminated, degraded, subjugated, and considered as subject of humiliation, any speech against them can be considered as hate speech, I hope that is understood, Isah Garba emphasized.
- How can you relate the earlier mentioned words with hate speech, Pem Stepen asked. When the speaker uses one of these words: discriminate, loot, riot, beat, forcefully evict, kill or call to action against a particular group of people because of their membership of a particular tribe, religion, ethnicity, region, political party, gender, disability or resources, that is a hate speech, said Isah Garba.
- Is criticizing government policy or programs, also a hate speech? Jirituwa Goyit asked. Let us be clear about criticism, criticism does not mean call to action but if the speaker uses a phrase or words that call people to action on other groups that is regarded as hate speech, Isah Garba responded.
- The politicians use the slogan of vote, wait, guard and escort to the collation centre till final announcement of result (a kasa, a tsare, a raka, a jira), can that be part of hate speech? Epraim Emah asked.
- Samuel Doris asked, is there any law that provide punishment against hate speech?
The next session focused on Countering Hate Speech and was facilitated by Ibrahim Nuhu, it mainly elaborated on countering mechanism and how countering can help douse the frequency of hate speech. Countering is differing from peace campaign but they have the same goal, vision and mission, i.e promoting and maintaining peace and harmony. We should also be careful using ambiguous phrases, statements or words. We believed in destiny and we are Nigerians, so we don’t have any place better to live than Nigerian as such we have to respect our traditions, tribes, ethnicity and gender no matter what.
The event ended at 3:30pm. The Public Sensitization on Hate and Dangerous Speech team included Isah Garba, the Senior Program Officer and Project coordinator Hate and Dangerous Speech, Ibrahim Nuhu, Shazali Sunusi, Abubakar Yusuf Auyo Zahra Yunusa and Balarabe Yakubu.