As South Sudan battles hate speech, being critical to a political decision or public policy must be allowed, said Marc Trouyet, the Ambassador of France to South Sudan said during the commemoration of the International Day for Countering Hate Speech at SceniusHub in Juba Tuesday.
“We have to collectively make a clear distinction between combating hate speech on social media and allowing freedom of speech and criticism to any political decision or public policy,” said Trouyet.
In July 2021, the UN General Assembly raised concerns over the exponential spread of hate speech and adopted a resolution on promoting inter-religious, intercultural dialogue and tolerance in countering hate speech around the world.
According to the global body, hate speech is on the rise with the potential to incite violence, undermine social cohesion and tolerance, and lead to psychological, emotional, and physical harm not only to individuals and groups targeted but to societies at large.
Trouyet said hate speech can target anyone everywhere, especially when misinformation is widespread. This, he said, in most cases, results in violent crimes.
“We must also remind ourselves that critiques are not hate speech, we have to make that clear, essential distinction, to be critical to any policy, any decision is not providing hate speech,” he said.
Merina Modi, the Executive Director for Defy Hate Now said that conflict in society is fueled by radical exchange of words, noting that unpleasant exchange of words leads to bitter extremism.
“The conflict among societies and the communities are caused by the more radical exchange of words, that exchange of words from time to time lead to varied extremism,” said Modi.
“The freedom of expression is really not protected but we are working with communities to ensure that we minimize hate speech,” she said.
The International Day for Countering Hate Speech was commemorated for the first time since its inception a year ago.