State agency raises concern over social media hate speech

Wednesday April 16 2014

Kenyan paramilitary officers (left) perform a search on a vehicle at the entrance to the Kasarani football stadium in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on April 8, 2014, where people rounded up during a police swoop in Eastleigh, Nairobi were being held. A State agency on media monitoring Wednesday raised concern over the return of hate speech on social media that had taken a religious dimension. PHOTO/AFP PHOTO

Kenyan paramilitary officers (left) perform a search on a vehicle at the entrance to the Kasarani football stadium in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, on April 8, 2014, where people rounded up during a police swoop in Eastleigh, Nairobi were being held. A State agency on media monitoring Wednesday raised concern over the return of hate speech on social media that had taken a religious dimension. PHOTO/AFP PHOTO 

By OUMA WANZALA
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A State agency on media monitoring Wednesday raised concern over hate speech on social media that had taken a religious dimension.

The National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring warned that unless addressed, the hate speech on the ongoing police crackdown on crime and illegal immigrants was a threat to national security and cohesion.

“Since the start of the operation we have seen postings on Facebook and twitter spew hate, intolerance and mockery and contravene fairness and objectivity. Bloggers must adhere to basic principle of decency,” said Ms Mary Ombara, the chairperson of the steering committee.

However, Ms Ombara, who is also the director of Public Communication at the Information and Communications ministry admitted that they are unable to deal with such people are there is no law to give them power to prosecute them until laws that were passed are implemented.

“We may wish to prosecute those on Twitter and Facebook but we cannot do so until the case at the High court is complete,” said Ms Ombara.

The director noted that hate speech had declined from 76 per cent in 2012 to 23 per cent in late 2013 and was now up to 43 per cent this month.

MEDIA COVERAGE

She added that the committee was also concerned with the media slant on the coverage of terrorism.

Ms Ombara observed that leaders and professionals from specific communities were deliberately using the media and other public platforms to perpetrate messages of an artificial religious conflict.

She added that these also purport government bias, discrimination and excesses on normal security operations.

“These communities tend to appeal to public emotion through unsubstantiated media statements such as 'We are treated as 4th class citizens’, security operations target us ' or we are restricted in concentration camps,” said Ms Ombara.

Ms Ombara added that the committee has written to two lawyers and a politician from the said communities on their utterances.

She went on: “The committee believes that the measures taken for Kenya’s security operations are commensurate with the seriousness of the threat of terrorism.”

Ms Ombara said that the war is not against particular communities noting that the government security operations have been stretched beyond Nairobi to all 47 counties.

“The government urges for stringent measures by all institution and the public to help safeguard security during Easter,” she added.

She cautioned the public to always run away from the first bomb blast as the criminals are likely to thrown a second or third explosive at a gathering crowd, causing unnecessarily high casualties.

Ms Ombara added that all government and private buildings across the country have been instructed to give security the utmost priority.

“All premises are required to install ultra-modern electronic screening systems and help identify suspects in the national security database,” she said.

The committee urged Kenyans to rally behind the government and support the security operations.

“The media cannot extricate itself from this reality. Coverage must be accurate and objective for our country’s well-being,” she added.