Madam Naana Eyiah, Deputy Minister for the Interior, has urged Ghanaians to join the fight against hate speech by condemning statements that suggest hate within the media space.
“As citizens, we should be each other’s keeper to condemn statements that suggest hate on our media space. This responsibility cannot be left only to the Government and state agencies to control. The Media plays a special role of informing the public and of publishing views and not only the views of the journalists, editors, directors, but also, the views of other persons from the public who use the services of the media.”
She made the call on Thursday at the Launch of a Guide for Intemperate Language, in Accra.
The document was put together by the National Peace Council (NPC) in partnership with the National Media Commission (NMC) to sanitise the air waves of needless verbal utterances against personalities indicating tribal, ethnic, and religious discrimination.
The Deputy Minister said the Government would uphold and protect the Law to ensure that the peace building efforts of Ghana were consolidated.
Madam Eyiah said hate speech incited violence and bias in all spheres of life, adding that, its scale and impact had now been amplified by new communication technologies.
“Hate speech, including online has become one of the most common ways of spreading divisive discourse on a global scale, threatening peace around the world. The impact of hate speech cuts across numerous areas of focus, from protecting human rights and preventing violence to sustaining peace, achieving gender equality, and supporting children and youth.”
She commended the NPC for the initiative to cut down the rate of hate speech in Ghana and urged them to find innovative ways to ensure that the guidelines were observed by the media and culprits.
The Reverend Dr Ernest Adu-Gyamfi, Chairman, NPC, said hate speech was “an abusive or threating speech or writing that expresses prejudice based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or similar grounds.”
He said hate speech and indecent forms of expressions had in recent times grown and become a threat to the Ghanaian society.
“In some instances, though not common, there had been derogatory remarks and insinuations cast by one ethnic group or tribe against another. These have resulted in some tension between ethnic or tribal groups that have the potential to disturb the peace of the country,” he said.
Rev Adu-Gyamfi bemoaned how the mass media had often been the channel through which hate speech was mostly used.
He said in some instances, the media had “doubled the evil” by fueling, fanning, and amplifying such behaviours with some inciting comments.
Rev Adu-Gyamfi said hate speech and other forms of indecent expressions could potentially get worse when there was a decline in professional standards of ethical journalism and further aggravated by the partisan ownership of media houses, the increasing number of media operators and the attendant effects of commercialization as well as other challenges.
He urged citizens to jealously guard Ghana’s enviable position on the Global Peace Index and protect the peace being enjoyed by citizens because no investor would do business in a conflict-prone country.
“Let us remember that Ghana as the gateway to Africa must continue to embrace multi-ethnic co-existence, diversity of thought and eschew negative communication and rather build on positivity of our diversity for better growth and development in all sectors of the country.”
Mr Tomg Norring, Danish Ambassador to Ghana said Ghana, had established itself as an undisputed beacon of democracy in West Africa and within the African Continent.
He said Denmark had supported the NPC in various ways to deliver on its mandate, including the development of the guidelines on hate speech.
Mr Norring said democracy was the bedrock of development globally and urged all stakeholders to affirm their commitment to ensure peace in Ghana and the Sub-region.
Mr Alex Bannerman, Deputy Executive Secretary, NMC, said the guidelines on hate speech would serve as a source document for the Commission in developing specific documents to handle peculiar issues within the media space.
He said the NMC would continue to partner the NPC to purge the country from all forms of hate speech or indecent expressions.
Mr Michael Petit Mawugbe, Executive Secretary to the Ghana Journalist Association’s President, said the document would enhance professionalism in the media space, hence its acceptance by the Association.
He said they would continue to associate themselves with the NPC and drive the initiative to achieve its desired goals.