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  • June 18, 2024
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Panos Commemorates International Day for Countering Hate Speech

Press Statement 

Lusaka, 18 June 2024: In commemorating the International Day for Countering Hate Speech, Panos Institute Southern Africa reiterates the need for citizens, the media and other information disseminators, including social media influencers, civil society and politicians, to join forces to combat the rising tide of hate speech, both online and offline.

In July 2021, the United Nations General Assembly highlighted global concerns over “the exponential spread and proliferation of hate speech” around the world. It adopted and proclaimed 18 June as International Day for Countering Hate Speech. This is in recognition of the need to counter discrimination, xenophobia and hate speech, and to address these vices in line with international human rights law.   This year, the day is being commemorated under the theme The Power of Youth for Countering and Addressing Hate Speech,”. It recognizes the vulnerability of young people to the impacts of hate speech and the crucial role they can play in addressing it.

Panos acknowledges and works to promote and defend the right to freedom of expression as a fundamental human right, but is concerned with the proliferation of hate speech. The problem has been compounded by the digital revolution. While the digital space has empowered citizens with increased opportunities for access to information and platforms for expression and engagement, the growing misuse and abuse of the space has blurred the lines between freedom of expression and injurious speech. New technologies are increasingly being exploited to spread hate speech and other harmful content, fuelling division, and threatening peace and development.

The UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech defines it as any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour that attacks or uses pejorative or discriminatory language with reference to a person or a group based on who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or other identity factor.

Hate speech lays the ground for internal and external conflicts and tensions, and wide scale human rights violations, some of which may be existential as they have potential to manifest in xenophobia and genocide.

Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It is a moral obligation of every person to keep it from escalating into what may be harmful to society.

Panos recognizes the importance of combatting hate speech as a means for protecting human rights, addressing gender-based violence, protecting civilians, and promoting information integrity.  Panos is working with various stakeholders to raise awareness of the dangers of hate speech, and facilitate collaboration in addressing the vice.

Tackling hate speech is a collective responsibility for everyone. For this reason, Panos calls upon all state and non-state actors, the government, civil society, faith-based institutions, the media and public to a coordinated response in addressing the root causes of hate speech, and to engage, empower youths with resources and platforms to fight against hate speech for an inclusive and tolerant society, through youth led initiatives. We invite different stakeholders to join forces with us through interventions like the USAID Open Spaces Zambia project, where we bring together a wide range of stakeholders to address hate speech and other forms of information pollution, as well as the iVerify Zambia Fact Checking and Response Mechanism, through which we prebunk and debunk hate speech, including through fact checking and content verification.

We firmly believe that together; by fostering responsible technology use and a spirit of tolerance, we can build a society where everyone feels safe and respected, regardless of their background.

Issued by:

Vusumuzi Sifile

Executive Director, Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAf)

Email: general@panos.org.zm