Hate speech: This is the right way to go

Monday May 31 2010

The government’s effort to curb hate speech during the constitution review debate is quite encouraging, and hopefully, will soon be followed by action.

In the latest initiative, the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, the Provincial Administration, and security agencies, have crafted a joint operation strategy to rein in hate-mongers.

The organsations will team up with volunteers who will be sent to rallies equipped with tapes to record those spreading hate messages.

Eventually, the records should be used as evidence in court.

At the heart of the campaign is the experience of the 2007 General Election campaigns that were marred by spiteful messages and lies peddled at the rallies and through leaflets, vernacular radio stations, the Internet and short message texts.

The end result was a poisoned political atmosphere that paved the way for inter-communal violence once the results were announced.

Death and massive destruction of property followed, and although they crnge was later contained through international intervention, the country will take a long time to heal.

Nobody wants a repeat of that horrifying experience, which is why no effort should be spared to curb any practice that may fuel ethno-political animosity.

Key political leaders have been categorical that the referendum debate should not divide the citizens.

However, paradoxically, it is mainly politicians who originate the strife through reckless utterances. If only they could tame their tongues, the country would be a lot better place to live in.

The point is that creating a new political culture where mutual respect is the norm and where differences of opinion are managed soberly requires a change of mindset.

For now, the Commission, with the support of the security agencies, must be apprehend the culprits.

Anyone caught breaking the law should be severely penalised to serve as a warning that days of such impunity are long gone.