Buhari Vows To Take ‘Firm And Decisive Action’ Against Hate Speech

Buhari's Cabinet Remains Intact Until May 22, Says Lai Mohammed
A file photo of President Muhammadu Buhari.

 

 

The President has cautioned promoters of hate speech in the country to desist from such actions or get ready to face the consequences.

President Muhammadu Buhari gave the warning on Tuesday in his Independence Day speech to the nation.

Noting that his administration recognises the freedom of expression of the citizens, he insisted that they would resist the abuse of such rights, especially through social media.

READ ALSO: President Buhari’s Independence Day Address (Full Speech)

The President said, “Our attention is increasingly being focused on cyber-crimes and the abuse of technology through hate speech and other divisive material being propagated on social media.

“Whilst we uphold the constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the rights of other citizens or threatens to undermine our National Security, we will take firm and decisive action.”

 

President Buhari, therefore, called on Nigerians to exercise restraint, tolerance and mutual respect in airing their grievances and frustrations.

According to him, the ongoing national discourse on various political and religious issues is healthy and welcome.

The President, however, stressed the need to remember the lessons of the past – lessons that are most relevant on a day such as this.

He added, “The path of hatred and distrust only leads to hostility and destruction.

“I believe that the vast majority of Nigerians would rather tread the path of peace and prosperity, as we continue to uphold and cherish our unity.”

President Buhari believes good governance and economic development cannot be sustained without an enabling environment of peace and security.

In the last four years, he noted that his administration has combatted the terrorist scourge of Boko Haram.

The country, according to him, owes a debt of gratitude to the gallant men and women in arms, through whose efforts recent successes were recorded.

The President also thanked Nigeria’s neighbours and allies – within the region and across the world – who have supported the country in tackling its security challenges.

Facebook Removes Profile Frame Targeting Religious Minority

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019, shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. PHOTO: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

Facebook said on Wednesday it has removed a profile frame targeting Pakistan’s long-persecuted Ahmadi community as the media giant continues to grapple with the proliferation of hate speech on the social network.

Profile frames are filters Facebook users can add to their pictures that often promote a cause, celebrate a holiday, or commemorate an event or tragedy.

The frame withdrawn by Facebook called for the death of the Ahmadis in Urdu and was widely shared in Pakistan.

“We have removed the Profile Frames in question for violating our rules, and have ensured that they’re unavailable for future use,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP via email.

“We do not tolerate any content — including anything shared within Profile Frames — that incites violence, and we remove this content whenever we become aware of it.”

The frame was extensively used by Pakistani Facebook users after US President Donald Trump met with several leading members of persecuted religious groups in the White House earlier this month, including a representative from Pakistan’s Ahmadi community.

Ahmadis were legally declared non-Muslims in Pakistan decades ago for their belief in a prophet after Mohammed and have long been persecuted and widely hated in the deeply conservative country.

Hardline Islamic scholars denounce the Ahmadis as heretics and the group has been the target of violence and threats by leading politicians in Pakistan over the years.

Facebook disabled 2.19 billion accounts in the first quarter of this year, nearly double the number of accounts nixed in the prior three-month period.

The social network took down four million posts considered hate speech in the first quarter of this year and continues to invest in technology to better detect such material in various languages and regions.

However, Facebook has been battered by criticism that it was more focused on growth than protecting users or thwarting deception, bullying, and harassment.

AFP

To Preserve Our Unity, We Need To Tackle Hate Speech – Kolade

Former Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Professor Christopher Kolade

 

Former Nigerian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Professor Christopher Kolade, has warned Nigerians of the dangers of hate speech, stressing that all hands must be on deck to tackle its menace.

Mr Kolade stated this on Wednesday during the 66th General Assembly of the Broadcasters Organisation of Nigeria (BON) in Lagos.

Speaking on the theme, “Hate Speech and the Nigerian Broadcast Industry,” Kolade maintained that hate speech if not addressed could hinder the nation’s unity.

“Hate speech is injurious to our joint endeavour. We know that hate speech can jeopardise the success of what we want to do together,” he said.

According to the former envoy, hate speech wreaks havoc on fostering unity as backed by the nation’s constitution.

He added, “We know that if we want to live as our constitution says, the constitution says we the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in peace and harmony, we know that hate speech will not let that happen.”

The BON Assembly is a gathering of key stakeholders in Nigeria’s broadcasting industry to brainstorm on how to make next year’s general election conducted without stress.

Kolade blamed the liberalisation of the broadcasting world on the creation of the social media.

He, therefore, implored broadcasters and key players to communicate effectively with the public in a responsible manner.

The former envoy strongly believes that the problems associated with hate speech can be effectively dealt with by media professionals.

“For those who are leading BON today, the responsibility of dealing with hate speech now belongs to you. Let us never forget that we are voluntarily working together on objectives that we share.”

With the general elections less than a year from now, Nigerians expect that these efforts put together would pay off especially when proper campaigns take place across the country later in the year.

NHRC Boss Decries Failure To Prosecute Those Behind Hate Speech

NHRC, NASSARAWA, STATE WORKERS

The acting Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Tony Ojukwu has lamented over the non-prosecution of perpetrators of hate speech and election violence in Nigeria.

The NHRC boss said that the non-prosecution of these perpetrators has largely encouraged the use of hate speech in election campaigns and other related social activities.

Ojukwu said this on Monday at the Federal High Court complex in Kaduna State during the Public Hearing by the Commission.

This situation, Ojukwu said further, is detrimental to the country’s socioeconomic development.

READ ALSO: President Buhari Meets With Rex Tillerson

The Commission at the Public Hearing highlighted cases of hate speeches and electoral violence which took place during and after the 2015 general elections in the North West region of the country, with a view to forestalling reoccurrence.

The history of hate speech and incitement to violence in Nigeria is a long, widespread and an unhappy one. Hate speech and the fanning of ethnic discord was linked with violence after the 2011 elections that left hundreds of people dead and thousands displaced.

The same scenario played out again during the 2015 elections where unprecedented cases of tension and violence were recorded in many parts of the country.

According to the National Human Rights Commission boss, the public hearing for stakeholders from the North West zone of the country was necessitated by series of complaints received by the commission against persons or parties alleged to have been involved in promoting hate speech and violence in the 2015 elections.

It will also serve as a proactive measure by the commission to discourage such acts as the nation prepares for another general election in 2019.

“During the 2015 general elections, the commission carried out a similar campaign against hate speech and election violence. You will recall the tension created in the polity due to hate speeches during the 2015 general elections. It took the cooperation of all stakeholders to ensure that the whole scenario did not degenerate into massive election violence like in 2011 general elections.

“In the past, violators of hate speech and election-related violence are hardly made accountable. This has encouraged the use of hate speech in campaigns and other election-related activities. The purpose of the present campaign by NHRC is to discourage use of hate speech and election violence during campaigns and other election activities as we approach the 2019 general elections,” he said.

The 2019 elections might be months away from now, but the verbal war and physical altercations in some cases between the gladiators, the political leaders and their followers seemed to be generating tension in the country. It is therefore hoped that such platforms like the public hearing will reduce election-related conflicts in the country.

Journalists To Discuss Hate Speech At IPI World Congress In Nigeria

International Press Institute (IPI) is set to hold its 2018 World Congress in Nigeria.

The Congress which is themed “Why Journalism Matters; Quality Media For Strong Societies” is aimed at discussing hate speeches, press freedom, quality journalism, among other press issues even as Nigeria’s 2019 general elections fast approaches.

The congress is to hold in Nigeria’s capital city, Abuja in June.

Addressing a press conference on Thursday in Abuja, the IPI Director, Barbara Trionfi said journalists will also share ideas about how to report activities of political leaders without using the news medium to spread hate speeches that are increasingly common in the political space.

READ ALSO: Fake News Has Put The Media In A Precarious Situation – John Momoh

“We look at hate speech as a major problem. It is becoming popular among political leaders across the world. How can we conduct elections without hate speeches and how can we also ensure that the media is not used to disseminate hate speech and also to ensure that this does not become a way for anybody occupying government position to clamp down on press freedom.

“We are trying to understand how we can ensure that quality and public interest is upheld in journalism,” she said.

According to the IPI Director, the Congress will also encourage the exchange of best practice among journalists from around the world adding that limit to press freedom, new technologies in investigative journalism and gender issue will also be the highlights for discussion at the congress.

“We will also look at the limit of press freedom from legislative and ethical preparative and what are the best practices. We shall also be looking at new technologies for investigative journalism and how it can be used to do our work better.

“Gender issue will also be a strong topic in the Congress, we will look at gender balance in the newsroom and how do we balance gender issue in our report,” Trionfi said further.

IPI is a global network of journalists, editors and media executives with the mission to defend media freedom and the free flow of news anywhere threatened.

Trionfi is expected to visit leading media houses in Nigeria including Channels Television.

Killings: Presidency Laments Hate Speech, Demands Respect For Buhari

Garba Shehu Says PDP Has Failed To Learn From Mistakes

The Nigerian Presidency has lamented over hate speech tendencies by some segment of the Nigerian media.

The Senior Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity told journalists in Abuja on Friday that many media organisation are guilty of reporting hate speech as it concerns the report of clashes in Benue State.

READ ALSO: Nigeria Has No Regret Fighting Apartheid In South Africa – Buhari

“The growing lack of respect for journalism ethics and press laws in the Nigerian media, especially regarding the clashes in Benue State is very unfortunate.

“The frequent expression of hate speech published by newspapers, in news stories and especially in columns is indeed a source of concern to all.

“We want to state emphatically that a segment of the Nigerian media is sinking deeper and deeper into the mesh of hate speech in spite of repeated appeals by recognised and reputable media bodies, the Government and concerned Nigerians,” Garba Shehu said.

The presidential spokesman said also condemned a publication in a national newspaper which said ‘‘President Muhammadu Buhari was the first to endorse the Benue massacre’’ on New Year Day stating that this is inciting members of the public.

Shehu also cited the example of a national newspaper with the headlines: ‘Expect More Blood in Benue.’

“Apart from the basic tone of respect expected from an individual who is supposedly intelligent and educated enough to know better since they have been granted space to write in a national newspaper, there is the risk of inciting the public to actions that will have gory consequences for the entire nation for generations to come.

“Those beating the gongs of war and fanning the embers of discord must remember what prevailed in Rwanda before the genocide of the early 90s, during which hundreds of thousands of lives were lost as a result of consistent hate speech spewing from that country’s media,” he said.

He appealed to the media to express criticisms without resorting to name calling.

“We must learn to express our grievances and criticisms without resorting to gutter language or to name calling, and the press has a responsibility to maintain that even if it means calling their columnists to order.

Calling for respect for the position of the President, Shehu said President Buhari according to the constitution has the primary duty of protecting life and property and that is what he has been doing in Benue and across the country.

“Calling him a murderer is not only grossly disrespectful but unfair, especially when the President has written a letter to the Senate detailing his efforts to quell the crisis in Benue State, including dispatching the Minister of Interior and the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations for an on the spot assessment of the situation in the aftermath of the unfortunate incident; and receiving a direct briefing from the IG the following day.”

Instagram, Google+ Join EU Group Fighting Hate Speech

LOIC VENANCE / AFP

Facebook’s Instagram and the Google+ social network have agreed to join an EU-sponsored group of US internet giants to combat online extremism, EU officials said Friday.

EU officials added that the existing members — YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook – have made progress toward meeting the code of conduct they signed up to in May 2016, promising to look at suspicious content within 24 hours and remove illegal material.

“Instagram has decided to join forces in the fight against illegal online hate speech and will now also apply the code of conduct,” EU Justice and Consumer Affairs Commissioner Vera Jourova told reporters.

“And this morning I also received the message that Google+ is joining,” she added.

The EU joined forces with US-based internet firms nearly two years ago amid growing alarm in Europe over the use of social media as a recruiting tool, especially by the Islamic State group.

Jourova said Friday she would continue having the industry regulate itself under the code of conduct after hailing progress among the internet firms to remove threatening material.

The commission said IT firms removed 70 percent of the illegal speech notified to them in the last few months, compared to 59 percent before May 2017, and 28 percent in the months after the code of conduct was launched.

Jourova also said Facebook had hired 3,500 new staff to fight online hate speech on top of the 4,500 existing employees.

She added that IT firms have also strengthened cooperation with civil society organisations, including training, to better detect and report suspected cases of hate speech.

“Having these quite positive results of this third assessment, I will be stronger in promoting my view that we should continue the way of doing this through the code of conduct method,” Jourova said before meeting EU ministers of justice next week in Sofia.

The leaders of EU states last year urged internet firms to do their utmost to combat online extremism or face the possibility of legislation if the industry self-regulation fails. The Commission is the executive and regulatory arm of the 28-nation EU.

Twitter Begins Enforcing Rules On ‘Hateful, Abusive’ Content

Twitter Steps Up Fight Against Sexual Harassment

Twitter said it began enforcing new rules Monday aimed at filtering out “hateful” and “abusive” content on the social network including messages which promote or glorify violence.

The platform has long faced criticism over how it deals with hate groups and content, which led it to removing verification badges from prominent US white nationalists last month.

“Specific threats of violence or wishing for serious physical harm, death, or disease to an individual or group of people is in violation of our policies,” the new rules state.

Also banned will be any content that “glorifies violence or the perpetrators of a violent act” as well as “hateful imagery” including logos or symbols associated with “hostility and malice” toward specific groups.

Twitter also said it would suspend “accounts that affiliate with organizations that use or promote violence against civilians to further their causes.”

But Twitter said it would not cut off accounts for military or government entities, and would consider exceptions “for groups that are currently engaging in (or have engaged in) peaceful resolution.”

The policies drew criticism last month when it took no action following one of President Donald Trump’s tweets which appeared to threaten violence against North Korea.

Twitter responded with a pledge to review its policy while noting that “newsworthiness” and public interest must be considered in deciding whether to take down a tweet.

The new policy marks the latest effort by social networks to remove content which promotes illegal or abusive activity while remaining open to dissent and controversial topics.

One account that was no longer visible on Twitter was that Britain First leader Jayda Fransen, whose anti-Islam messages were retweeted by Trump, and another leader of the group, Paul Golding.

Twitter declined to comment on any individual accounts and had no immediate information on the number of users impacted by the new enforcement, a spokeswoman said.

AFP

IBB Preaches Peace, Warns Against Agitations And Hate Speech

Ex-Military President Ibrahim Babangida (IBB) Returns From Medical Vacation

As Nigeria marks its 57th Independence anniversary, the country’s former military president, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida (Rtd), wants Nigerians to embrace peace and dialogue as antidotes for conflict resolution.

General Babangida in a statement on Saturday – the eve of the Independence anniversary, also called for a careful appraisal of the country’s journey to nationhood, warning that agitations and conflicts are hurting the country.

“Dialogue remains the best option in resolving conflicts and agitations in the country. Recent conflicts and agitations, chanting slogan of war and hate speeches are derailing the nation’s development and unity,” he said.

“As an active participant in the civil war and as a retired military officer, with the hard lesson learnt, I will never be tired of calling for the oneness and unity of our great nation.”

According to him, with the nation bedevilled by agitations and conflicts, there is the need for careful appraisal of our journey to nationhood.

The former military head of state commended the military for their role in protecting the country, saying, “The resilience of armed forces of Nigeria to curtailed secessionists agitation throughout our nation’s post-independence era has reduced tensions and unnecessary destruction of lives and property.”

General Babangida explained that some of the policies formulated under his military regime was aimed at tackling agitations and called on government at all levels to encourage tolerance.

“During our tenure in government we deliberately formulated policies, programmes, projects and even the creation of states to further weaken unwholesome agitations for secession and promote mutual and peaceful coexistence devoid of ethnic, religious and regional discrimination,” he said.

He urged Nigerians to pray and work towards peace and progress of the nation and advised those beating the drums of war through hates speeches to sheathe their swords and support the government in addressing security and economic challenges.

“We should support the government in addressing the security and Economic challenges as I urge Nigerians to extend their gestures with a hand of fellowship to one another and assists those affected by natural disasters, conflicts and communal clashes that are presently confined at Internally Displaced Camps (IDP’s),” he said.

Facebook Bans ‘Dangerous’ Rohingya Militant Group

facebook
File Photo

Facebook said it has banned a Rohingya militant group from its site, designating it a ‘dangerous organisation as information on the deepening crisis is muddied by claims, counter-claims and hate speech on social media.

The social network is a key tool in the information war taking place over violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which has driven more than 420,000 Rohingya Muslims from the country and sparked UN accusations of military-led “ethnic cleansing”.

Rohingya activists have used the platform to post alleged scenes of brutality from the conflict zone, where humanitarian and media access is severely restricted, while the army and government deliver near-daily updates on the crisis.

A Facebook spokeswoman told AFP late Wednesday it was not requested by the government to bar the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which remains active on Twitter.

The spokeswoman added that the move was in line with its policy of prohibiting violent groups from its site.

The latest violence in Rahkine erupted after a series of deadly ARSA attacks on military posts in August.

The army has been blamed for launching a crackdown in response that has forced hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, along with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus, into neighbouring Bangladesh.

The spokeswoman said Facebook was aware that Rohingya activists were using the site to draw attention to the violence, and that it intended to allow non-graphic content to remain online.

Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has played down claims of atrocities and blamed “a huge iceberg of misinformation” for complicating the conflict.

She has faced mounting criticism from global leaders over what the United Nations has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” against Rohingya Muslims.

Britain sent back five Myanmar army officers from a training session this week, “on account of the current situation in Rakhine”, Myanmar’s army said on Facebook late Wednesday.

The move comes amid a mounting diplomatic spat between the two countries, with Britain saying Wednesday it had suspended all educational training courses for the Myanmar military over concerns of rights abuses in Rakhine state.

Rohingyas are widely reviled in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are considered illegal ‘Bengali’ immigrants brought in from modern-day Bangladesh during British colonial rule.

There were an estimated 1.1 million Rohingyas in Rakhine state before the current crisis, though nearly half have fled into Bangladesh where they are cramped into ill-equipped camps.

AFP

Police Boss Asks Officers To Curb Hate Speech

Police Boss Warns Officers Against Corrupt Practices
File photo

Officers of the Nigeria Police Force have been asked to do everything in their power to discourage hate speech among the people in the course of carrying out their duties.

The directive was contained in a message from the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, to graduating officers of the Police Staff College in Jos, the Plateau State capital.

In his address on Wednesday, the police boss, who was represented at the event by the Commandant of the College, AIG Dorothy Gimba, asked officers to promote ideas that would bring unity, even among other security agencies.

He said police officers, as law enforcement agents, are charged to discourage hate speeches among the polity in the course of executing their constitutional responsibilities.

The IGP also emphasised the importance of training and retraining as a relevant tool for the enhancement of personnel performance, service delivery and effectiveness of the Force.

Forty-seven police officers of the rank of superintendent and deputy superintendent successfully completed the operational leadership and command course at the College.

Course participants were exposed to different fields of policing ranging from respect for rule of law and human rights; management, leadership and human behaviours; intelligence led policing; and community partnership and inter-agency cooperation.

They were also trained in the areas of cybercrime as well as global legal development and jurisdiction to update their knowledge on modern day policing and improved performance towards the much-desired community and intelligence policing.

I Don’t Know If Government Is Monitoring Calls Of Nigerians – Garba Shehu

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As concerns grow over whether the government is actually monitoring the activities of Nigerians on the social media, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity has said he doesn’t know if calls are being monitored.

“I am not aware of that,” Mr Garba Shehu when asked, during an appearance on Channels Television’s Politics Today, if the government was monitoring the calls of Nigerians.

He, however, shared the government’s concern about the misuse of the Internet.

President Muhammadu Buhari had in his national broadcast on Monday last week said some of the comments and discussions on the social media while he was away on medical vacation were distressing.

The following day, the Director of Defence Information, Major-General John Enenche, told Channels Television that the activities of Nigerians on the social media were being monitored for anti-government, anti-military and anti-security, sparking outrage among Nigerians on the social media and beyond.

Although Mr Shehu is “not aware” of the monitoring of calls, he is quick to point out that the Internet now feeds extremism.

“I know that this country, in fact, the whole world has a big problem with balancing free speech and what we call in this country hate speech,” he said.

“It has many faces depending on which country you are dealing with. In most of these European countries, (and) America, they are dealing with Islamic terror. In America, white extremism and all of that. All of it fed substantially by the Internet.”

Consequently, he does not believe it should be a big deal if there is some form of monitoring going on.

He said, “I believe that people can be justified. A lot of countries are taking notes. If Nigeria does it, I don’t know. I’m in a position to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But if it happens in this country, it is not extraordinary, it is not unusual. Everybody is interested. Look, this thing about international terrorism is big and nobody is leaving it to chances.”

The Presidential aide also has no problem with military monitoring the social media as long as it is part of their “national security duties”.

He also defended the President for his concern about the use of the social media for promoting extremism.