By KATO P. LADAN, Kaduna
Journalists at two regional meetings organised by the Federation of African Journalists and Ethical Journalism Network have called on media to take steps to address the issue of hate speech in media ahead of key elections in the Central and West Africa.
Representatives from Cameroon, Chad, DR Congo and Congo Brazzaville, met in Douala from 26-27 February hosted by the Cameroon Journalists Trade Union, while delegates from Bénin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, and Togo met in Abuja from 1-2 March hosted by the Nigerian Journalists Union (NUJ).
Both meetings agreed that hate speech, fake news and abusive exploitation of information technology are endangering pluralism, democracy and the defence of human rights. The meetings, which brought together over 80 journalists, editors, industry regulators and educators, reaffirmed that ethical journalism is the key provider of the information that democracy needs to survive.
African media professionals were called upon to support the continental campaign Turning The Page of Hate to expose, isolate and eliminate all forms of incitement to intense hatred and violence and called on journalists unions and other partners to promote practical tools such as the 5-point test for hate-speech for training of journalists in newsrooms and for freelance reporters.
As a result of the meetings the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) and Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) have undertaken to work with all relevant stakeholders to update ethical codes across region so that they adequately deal with the growing threat of hate speech, terrorism and violent extremism.
Participants welcomed the timely nature of the event and called on the EJN and FAJ to work with media groups to create election reporting guidelines and hate speech glossaries ahead of the elections in Cameroon, DR Congo, Gambia, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Togo and elsewhere in the region. It was also agreed that FAJ and EJN shall develop a long-term strategic plan for similar interventions ahead of other elections in Africa.
The meeting also put forward a programme to improve ethics, good governance and self-regulation; fight corruption in the newsroom; strengthen reporting of terrorism and violent extremism; updating and enhancing how journalism is taught; as well as developing holistic media literacy programmes that bring together, media owners, regulatory bodies, journalist unions, academic institutions, media development groups and civil society