“It promotes racism, xenophobia and misogyny; it dehumanizes individuals and communities; and it has a serious impact on our efforts to promote peace and security, human rights and sustainable development,” stressed Secretary-General António Guterres.
He explained that words can be weaponized and cause bodily harm†
The escalation from hate speech to violence has been instrumental in the most heinous and tragic crimes of modern times, from the anti-Semitism that fueled the Holocaust to the 1994 genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda, he said.
“The internet and social media have boosted hate speech, allowing it to spread like wildfire across borders,” the UN chief added.
The spread of hate speech against minorities during the COVID-19 pandemic has further demonstrated that many societies are highly vulnerable to the stigma, discrimination and conspiracies it fosters.
In response to this growing threat, Mr Guterres launched three years ago the UN Strategy and Action Plan against hate speech – a new framework to support Member States in combating the scourge while succeeding in protecting freedom of expression and opinion. to respect.
It was conducted in collaboration with civil society, media, technology companies and social media platforms.
And last year, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for intercultural and interfaith dialogue to counter hate speech – and proclaimed International Day.
†Hate speech is a danger to everyone and fighting it is everyone’s jobsaid the UN chief.
“This first international day to fight hate speech is a call to action† Let’s renew our commitment to doing everything in our power to prevent and end hate speech by promoting respect for diversity and inclusivity.”
Foster hatred of hostilities
In a sign that the phenomenon is becoming a growing problem, UN chief of rights Michelle Bachelet and UN special adviser for the prevention of genocide, Alice Nderitu, expressed “deep concern” on Friday at the hate speech that fuels violence against civilians. , in protracted clashes between the rebel group M23 and government forces in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
The two top officials called for an immediate halt to the increase in attacks on civilians.
“We call on all parties to respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” they emphasized.
The senior UN officials pointed out that hate speech and “incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence across the country” – specifically targeting Kinyarwanda speakers – were a major factor as the DRC government accused Rwanda of supporting the M23.
†Hate speech fuels conflict by increasing mistrust between communities,” they said.
“It focuses on aspects that previously mattered less, encourages a discourse of ‘we vs. it’ and affects the social cohesion between communities that have lived together before”.
So far, the UN has documented eight cases of hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence and it has been disseminated by figures of political parties, community leaders, civil society actors, as well as the Congolese diaspora.
“Times of heightened political tension and armed conflict are usually associated with an increased use of hate speech and incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence,” the two top officials said.
“Hateful messages increase the risk of violence, including atrocities targeting specific groups of people [and] should be roundly condemned and restrained by the highest national authorities.”
Both women urged Parliament to speed up the passage of the bill on “racism, xenophobia and tribalism” to strengthen the legal framework to address and counter hate speech.