UNICEF sets up strategies to combat the emergence of hate speech in DRC

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Kinshasa, April 1st, 2022 (CPA).- The Special Representative of the UN General Secretary in DRC, Bintou Keita chaired, last Thursday in Kinshasa, a ceremony for the publication of the report of the workshop, held from September 22nd to 24th, 2021 in Kinshasa, on strategies to combat hate speech, which recommended, in particular, concrete actions to be taken against the emergence of this type of speech.

For the representative of UNICEF in DRC, Jean Pierre Ilboudo, who gave the outline of the report, the participants in this workshop sounded the alarm, recalling that over the past few years in the country, calls to hatred have multiplied in the media, on social networks and in the interventions of socio-political actors.

He also mentioned the key role that education plays in changing mentalities and falls within the framework of the vision of the President of the Republic, Felix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo who set up, upon his accession to power, a Commission in charge of changing mentalities (CCM).

Threat to national cohesion

These speeches constitute, according to the participants, a real threat to national cohesion, to lasting peace and security and to the protection of civilians in DRC.

The latter recommended, at the end of this workshop, that arrangements be made for a specific law against hate speech and messages inciting violence to be passed, with a view to strengthening the fight against stereotypes and discrimination against individuals. In this perspective, the government should see to the strengthening of the capacities of the public prosecutor’s offices as well as the courts and tribunals on related issues.

Get involved in the media

As far as the media sector is concerned, it is essential to invest in digital media and information literacy, to prepare pupils and students to deal with misinformation.

In the same perspective, the participants recommended that the regulatory and self-regulatory institutions, such as CSAC and UNPC, be provided with the appropriate means.

“The Dangerous Mouth and Words”

For his part, Bintou Keita indicated, in his intervention, that on the sidelines of the upcoming elections in 2023, the situation in DRC remains worrying with regard to hate speech. « The mouth and the words remain dangerous », she said.

The Special Representative of the General Secretary of the United Nations in DRC, before the symbolic delivery of this report of nearly 140 pages to the Director of Cabinet of the Minister in charge of Communication and Media, invited the Congolese authorities to continue efforts to fight against speeches of this kind, and ensured the accompaniment of the United Nations. The head of Monusco also called on spokespersons, communicators and religious leaders to commit themselves against hate speech.

The head of government in favor of this fight

For his part, the cabinet director of the Minister of Communication and Media, Me Lianza Likwale, said that faced with hate speech, the media must react.

« Hence the specific role and responsibility of the media, given that the Head of State has always insisted on what he called ‘media safety’ during the work of the General States of the Press », said he pointed out, adding that the media space in Kinshasa has more than 205 television channels, some of which have no office.

The directors of the cabinet of the Ministers in charge of Human Rights and of the Minister attached to the President of the Republic also took the floor on this occasion to express the government’s desire to reverse the trends.

The president of the Superior council of audio-visual and the communication (CSAC), Tito Ndombi, finally, insisted on the immense task of his institution of regulation in the media. CSAC needs to be supported for a country which today has about 600 stations in operation, some of which without government authorization, he said.

This workshop was jointly organized by UNICEF, the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA), MONUSCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

ACP/