2019: Hate speech, fake news threats to general elections – CITAD

By Abdallah el-Kurebe, Editor

#TrackNigeria: The Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) has observed that the practice of hate speech and fake news by politicians would threaten the conduct of the 2019 general elections.

Addressing a press conference on hate, dangerous speech and fake news in the ongoing campaign for the 2019 general elections Tuesday, the Coordinator, Curbing Hate and Dangerous Speech Project of CITAD, Hamza Ibrahim stated the need to block hate and dangerous speech as well as fake news from reaching Nigerians.

CITAD also noted that hate speech and fake news should not be allowed to give basis for intolerant and insensitive citizens to cultivate what may bring the country to a standstill.

The full press statement:

Let me begin by thank you all for coming to cover this briefing. As you are aware, we are only 25 days away from the 2019 general elections, and since the commencement of the campaigns by political parties and candidates vying for various elective posts, we at the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) having been sensitizing politicians against hate and dangerous speech during campaigns and the media on the need to block hate and dangerous speech from reaching audience, the purpose is to ensure hateful and dangerous speech-free electioneering. But, unfortunately the campaigns haven’t been hateful and dangerous speech-free, even more disturbing is an emerging trend of disseminating hate and dangerous speech as well as fake news especially on social media platforms by some people. We believe this is a serious threat to peaceful conduct of the elections and mutual coexistence of Nigerians at different places. Therefore, this morning, we are addressing you on three critical issues that have bearing on the forthcoming elections, i.e hate speech, dangerous speech and fake news.

It will be important for me to note here, that, the Center for Information Technology and Development (CITAD), has been implementing a “Curbing Hate Speech in Nigeria Project” for the past four years now, and we are being supported by Mac Arthur Foundation. What we do in the project is to monitor, counter and sensitize people on hate and dangerous speech online and offline.

Our Concern

The past few weeks have been of great concern to us an organization that is involved in monitoring and countering hate speech and fake news. Since the campaigns started about a month ago, we have seen a growing number of hateful and dangerous speeches by politicians at different political gatherings, their supporters and some elites also partake in the unfortunate act especially on social media platforms. We believe condoning hate and dangerous speech as well as fake news especially in the buildup to the 2019 general elections is not only threatening to the conduct of the elections, but, the experience after, we must note here, that, elections come and go, as such they shouldn’t be allowed to give basis for intolerant and insensitive citizens to cultivate what may bring the country to a standstill.

We have also noticed that some radio and television stations allow hate speech either in form of jingles or during live coverage of political rallies, and this has been paving way for another trend of hate speech as the 2019 elections keep approaching.

In the past few weeks, we have documented phrases statements such as “tsintsiya tsiyace (PDP Chairman, Rogo Local Government, Kano state)meaning APC is evil, “koda tsiya koda tsiya-tsiya sai munci zabe (Hon. Abdullahi Abbas, APC Chairman, Kano state)meaning whether in trouble or chaos we must win election, “I will deliver Oshodi for Sanwo-Olu if PDP like it or not. We are ready, if they bring 100 guns we will bring 200 guns and bomb. We are going to kill those who will not vote for Sanwo-Olu in this Oshodi (NURTW Chairman, Oshodi, Lagos state)”, etc. These are real threats to the electioneering and the elections in general.

Our observatory has also documented instances of fake news intended to heat up the polity, most of the fake stories were told in pictures as their creators used images to mislead readers into believing their invention. A picture of the presidential candidate of PDP Atiku Abubakar kissing a lady in public went viral and has generated hate speech and controversy, but, our verification did establish that the original image was the subject and his wife before undergoing “photoshopping”. Another similar picture that also went viral was that of Hadiza Dahiru Abba, Usman Halilu Ahmed, Aisha Muhammadu Buhari and Hajo Sani, in the picture, the four persons raised their fingers to illustrate support for continuity for Buhari administration, but, Hajo Sani was identified as Amina Bala Zakari, the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission’s Election Collation Center. The two scenarios were completely fake as their originality differs from the later usage.  

We have also learnt that Femi Fani-Kayode has on 8th January 2019 made a post on his Facebook wall linking the “four finger” symbol used by Buhari and other politicians to symbolize their wish for continuity with support for terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, in another post he dehumanized an institution, these remarks are dangerous and condemnable especially at a time when the nation is facing general election. We condemn the remarks and strongly urge Fani-Kayode to withdraw and delete the comments as well as desist from making such insensitive utterances in future.  

Recommendations:

  1. While strongly condemning the hate and dangerous speeches from especially members/followers of the two major political parties, i.e All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), we want the two parties and several others to forthwith caution their followers and supporters against engaging in hate and dangerous speech, fake news creation and circulation as well as venturing in any act capable of jeopardizing the peaceful conduct of the 2019 general elections.
  2. We want to categorically call on the chairmen of the two political parties, i.e Prince Uche Secondus (PDP) and Adams Oshomole (APC) to be courageous and urge all their followers/members to in the interest of peace stay away from hateful and dangerous utterance during campaigns.
  3. We pass the same message to all state governors to enjoin their commissioners, other political appointees and numerous political followers to avoid hate and dangerous speech.   
  4. We equally want to reiterate our call on musicians singing political songs to avoid using hateful and dangerous wordings in songs.
  5. The media should continue to scan their content and stop any hateful or dangerous piece as well as fake news from reaching audience.
  6. Politicians should adopt using safe and tolerant comments against each other when engaging themselves.
  7. We urge the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to be extremely vigilant in their monitoring of hateful and unwanted content and take necessary actions on radio and television stations that allow such.

We also releasing three policy briefs: Hate Speech and the Campaigns for the 2019 Election, a Campaign Advisory, Gender-Based Hate Speech, a Policy Brief and Curbing Hate Speech: Definition Matters. We want to use this opportunity to commend the management of News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) for taking the right action on their reporter, Bridget Kyado who ignored ethics and professionalism and put out a fake news, we equally want all the media organizations (print and broadcast) in the country to be checking the authenticity of stories they carry.

Signed:

Hamza Ibrahim,

Coordinator, Curbing Hate and Dangerous Speech Project,

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