The Director-General of the National Orientation Agency, NOA, Garba Abari has described the increasing rate of hate speech and fake news in the social space as capable of deepening the fault lines of our country and threatening the fragility of our hard earned national unity.
Mr Abari, who spoke in Kano during the second edition of the Nigerian Union of Journalists, NUJ, Conference held at the Coronation Hall of the Government House, Kano, said if not checked, the trend could undermine democracy, national development.
The D-G said it was timely and apt for the union to provide the platform for frank and sober reflection on the essence and scope of press freedom, saying hate speech is not free speech
He regretted that journalism profession is in dire need of sanitization, especially now when it appeared that the environment has supported the sacrifice of ethical values on the altar of mediocrity and primordial consideration.
He urged the forum to “proffer practical steps and solutions that would make the spread of hate speech and fate news less effective and less attractive”.
The Director-General said “hate speech promotes suspicion, heats up the polity, heightens acrimony and inflames avoidable social discontent which often crystallizes in social tensions and unrests that take their toll on our national unity and development”
According to the NOA boss, it is wrong to assume “that free speech is hate speech or that the right to free speech is an open cheque that justifies the promotion of hate speech. It is equally necessary that we understand what free speech means for the purpose of drawing a distinction between the two”
“While we have a duty to uphold the ideals of free speech as enshrined in our constitution, we equally desire free speech for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy,” Abari said.