The United Nations (UN), has cautioned Nigerians against hate speech stating,the election season had witnessed a surge in the use of inflammatory language, hateful and divisive rhetoric.
Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Alice Wairimu Nderitu, gave the charge on Friday during a press briefing, in Abuja.
Nderitu noted that, hate speech is being amplified at an unprecedented rate by digital technology urging, Nigerians to make concerted efforts to ensure a violent free election.
She further warned that hate speech if accompanied by policies and practices that discriminate against populations based on their identity, often results in hate crimes, discrimination, and violence and can be both a precursor and a trigger of atrocity crimes, in particular genocide.
Nderitu said further, “We know that the impact of hate speech makes those targeted more vulnerable to violence, exposes them to exclusion and discrimination, exacerbates underlying social and economic inequalities, and undermines social cohesion.
“We know too that hate speech particularly impacts women differently as is often evidenced by their absence from political spaces. It also contributes to polarizing communities along identity lines, hampering dialogue and reconciliation.
“Countering and addressing hate speech is crucial. In the Holocaust and the genocides in Rwanda against the Tutsi and in Srebrenica, Bosnia Herzegovina, hate speech and the dehumanization of ‘the other’ was present during, after and long before violence broke out and such crimes were committed.
“Indeed, it all begins with words. By addressing divisive and harmful language, we can avoid the escalation of tensions that could result in violence. Measures to that effect can also help build societies that are resilient and inclusive.”
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres maintained that, addressing hate speech does not mean limiting freedom of speech but keeping it from escalating into something more dangerous.
Guterres said, “hate Speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace. Silence can signal indifference to bigotry and intolerance, even as a situation escalates and the vulnerable becomes victim.
“Tackling hate speech is also crucial….This is not an isolated phenomenon or the loud voices of a few people in the fringe of society. Hate is moving into the mainstream….And with each broken norm, the pillars of our common humanity are weakened.”