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2023:Coalition calls for synergy against hate speech, fake news

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Community of Practice Against Mass Atrocities in Nigeria, a coalition of civil society groups, has urged Nigerians to be vanguards of the civic space by working against hate speech, fake news and other forms of incitement, ahead of 2023 poll.

The coalition said this a High-Level Dialogue on Election Atrocities and Hate Speech in Nigeria, organised by Global Rights in Abuja on Monday.
The members of the coaltion included:Global Rights, Centre for Community Excellence, African Initiative for Peace Building, Advocacy and Advancememt (Afripeace) and Sector Empowerment Foundation.
Others were:Alliances for Africa, We the People and Srarina Initiative for Peace, Justice and Developemnt among others.

Mr Redzie Jugo, the Team Lead, Srarina Initiative for Peace, Justice and Development who spoke on behalf of the coaltion called on the government to secure vulnerable communities and address security challenges, ahead of the election.

“If election do not take place in these communities, or if they are marked by violence, then the election cannot be considered to be free and fair and would have failed irrespective of who wins,” Jugo said.

He said the group moved to address the problem of fake news and hate speech because they could affect peaceful conduct of election in 2023.
He said this was because Nigeria was already suffering from multidimensional forms of violence, added to the endemic sufferings Nigerians were enduring.

“In the period since Nigeria’s general elections in 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has suffered at least 50 violent attacks across 15 states the country.

“Some of which have resulted in the killing of its staff ,quite apart from the loss of property and election materials

“With balloting scheduled to take place in 68 days ,a rising tide of violence ,hate speech, intolerance and election related atrocities now threatens to derail Nigeria’s 2023 election.

“As its contribution towards averting this possibility, the Community of practice against Mass Atrocities in Nigeria is establishing a capability to monitor all acts of election related violence with a view to pursuing accountability for them within Nigeria if possible,” he said.

Jugo said that for this purpose, the community established an Incident Centre on Election Atrocities (ICEA) to harmonise and co-ordinate evidence collection, preservation and advocacy on violence connected with the 2023 election.

He said that the group observed the history of violence trailing Nigeria’s election adding that there was uncontrolled access to small and light weapons increasing the odds that violence could get deadly .

He said that contextualising the 2023 election within Nigeria’s ongoing endemic insecurity the proliferation of arms ,the devisive political rhetoric of ethnicity and religion ,high levels of citizens mistrust among others may challenge the election.

“The warning signs are clearly being escalated through the manifest desperation of politicians and their supporters who are resorting to hate speech and fake news to control the polity ,Nigeria cannot afford any further violence.

“Added to this dimensions is the level of digital penetration which affords immediately to the amplification of hate speech and disinformation to an extent that was previously unknown.

“This is especially in the hands of desperate politicians and thier supporters who are using these platforms as tools to propagate and instigate violence against opponents and dissenting views,” he said.

Jugo said the group was seeking the collaboration of the public by reporting hatespeech ,fake news and others to them.

He said Nigeria’s justice institutions were key to addressing the menace.

“Impunity has been the fertile ground upon which hate speech ,fake news and other forms of electoral atrocities have flourished.

“INEC had complained that they faced over 600 cases in relation to pre-election matters alone and arising.

“We therefore, call on the judiciary and law enforcement to act in the interest of democracy and the wellbeing of our mission there should be no sacred cows,” he said. (NAN)

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