Journalists and African media leaders from the region are meeting this week to highlight the role of media and journalism in combating hate-speech and intolerance in the upcoming election campaign.
The meeting, organised by the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT) and the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), opens in Dar Es Salaam today (Tuesday) and comes after fresh regional conflict with recent terrorist attacks in Kenya and fears of genocidal violence in Burundi.
The meeting will involve a workshop at the Peacock Hotel on how journalists and media can help stop the spread of hateful political propaganda and will reinforce the Africa-wide campaign,Turning the Page of Hate, which was launched last year in Kigali to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide.
Among the speakers will be Mohammed Garba, President of the Federation of African Journalists and Imelda Lulu Urio, from the Tanzanian Legal and Human Rights Centre.
“This conference could not come at a more important time for Tanzanian journalists,” said Rose Haji Mwalimu, head of IAWRT for Tanzania. “Media here are in the frontline of a struggle for democracy and pluralism. We have to ensure that we keep a lid on the voices of hate and, at the same time, give people the right to free speech.”
This challenging task will involve helping journalists to identify hate-speech and to lower the temperature of confrontation that often comes at election time, she said. The journalists and media will be encouraged to use a special 5-point test for hate-speech that has been developed in co-operation between media and the United Nations human rights commission.
“The violence in recent months inspired by terrorists in Kenya and the continuing shadows over Burundi suggest that it’s a matter of urgency for journalists to eliminate the voices of intense hatred and incitement,” said Aidan White, Director of the EJN. “This meeting comes only a few months before the hotly-contest general election in Tanzania when the political temperature will rise and media have to guard against being used by hate-mongers.”
In recent years, Tanzania has seen much foul play by candidates from all parties with hate speech and threats on all sides. There have been reports of acid attacks, kidnappings and killings. This meeting will focus on practical actions for journalists to help reduce the level of confrontation.
The meeting will:
1. Call upon government and all political leaders to respect the freedom of the press and ensure that journalists operate in a safe environment;
2. Call on media and journalists to boycott hate speech or any language that can stir violence;
3. Promote ethical standards at all levels of the press, broadcasting and online communications;
4. Call on politicians to ban hate speech in their own ranks;
5. Call upon citizens to boycott meetings or activities where candidates or political activists use hateful, violent and discriminatory language to promote their brand of politics.
6. Reiterate the need for all media to be aware of legal restrictions, including the Newspaper Act of 1976 that could see media banned for hate speech;
7. Call upon the Tanzanian Parliament to review provisions in the Statistics Act as well as the Cyber Crime Act which may violate the freedom of the press as well as the right to information.
“None of this will be easy,” said Rose Haji Mwalimu, “But this is an important opportunity for journalists and media to strengthen their role in ensuring the coming elections are a beacon for democracy and not an excuse for settling political score by acts of hatred and violence.”
Rose Haji Mwalimu:firstname.lastname@example.org or 0754270856/0655434444
Aidan White: email@example.com or 00447946291511