The world is witnessing a disturbing groundswell of xenophobia, racism and Intolerance. Social media and other forms of communication are being exploited as platforms for bigotry.
Countering tribalised hate speech begins by a realization that while freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, the emergence of social media has created multiple platforms for the production, packaging and dissemination of hate speech. Education on media ethics should focus on the rights and freedoms of journalists and their role in creating and promoting peaceful societies.
Awareness must be raised on the political, social and cultural rights of individuals and groups, including freedom of speech, and the responsibilities and social implications that come with press freedom. Journalists must be equipped with the knowledge and skills to identify hate speech and to counteract hate speech messages. Conflict sensitive reporting will help dispel the ‘us’ against ‘them’ fallacy. Journalists should be taught conflict sensitive reporting skills. Multicultural awareness campaigns should emphasize knowledge about and respect for the diversity of cultures and traditions. Journalists must exercise professional standards in this and can write articles, air programmes and even speak with people without taking sides. Hate speech remains largely invisible simply because many victims do not know where to report the cases or even understand that they are victims of hate speech. Impunity against hate crimes can be tackled by establishing monitoring and evaluation units in newsrooms. These units would then be tasked with monitoring hate speech trends, compiling reports and bringing these to the attention of key institutions and the civil society.
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