Christian and Muslim leaders under the auspices of religious scholars have taken steps toward curbing the spread of fake news and hate speech in the country.
To this end, the religious leaders have commenced sensitization of social media influencers, bloggers to use their various platforms to promote peaceful coexistence amongst Nigerians.
Speaking at a one-day Inter-religious dialogue with social media influencers and bloggers, the Director, Research Training, Islamic Education Trust, Nuruddeen Lemu, said hate speech is any kind of communication in speech, writing, behaviour that attacks, uses pejorative or discriminatory language, especially with reference to a person or a group on the basis of who they are, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity.
Lemu said if left unchecked, hate speech could lead to violence or hate crimes against marginalised groups in the country adding that it is capable of destroying a country.
The Islamic leader, while stressing the positive aspect of the social media, said if used positively, it will enhance religious harmony and peaceful coexistence.
Lemu said religious leaders are instrumental in combating hate speech and discrimination adding that if left unchecked, it will undermine the values of religious diversity and pluralism.
”It is vital that religious leaders from all faiths show leadership and set a strong example for their followers,” Lemu said.
The Director General, Inter-Religious Peace Initiative, Dr Simon Dolly, called for more conflict sensitive training in order to help journalists and social media influencers to develop the ethical capacity to identify sources of conflict and to report news fairly and accurately.
Dolly who urged the government to raise more awareness on the possible positive way of using the social media, said freedom of expression is protected under international law with clear rights outlined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
‘”However, the international community has also agreed to certain limitations – such as on speech which advocates “national, racial or religious hatred” and “constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence.”
”Therefore, it is extremely important for governments to establish sound legal frameworks on hate speech, which hold perpetrators accountable, uphold human dignity, protect marginalised groups, while still balancing the right to freedom of expression,” he added.