The legal luminary and activist Femi Falana (SAN), has correctly pointed out that there are enough laws in the statute books to confront hate speeches and utterances which are clearly constructed to promote discord amongst ethnic and religious groups as well as cause disaffection within the Republic. It is therefore superfluous in the views of many people that the federal government now sees a need to, tighten the screws by putting more laws on the statute books to curtail the promoters of hate speeches.
From our perspective, it might be superfluous, nevertheless, in view of what is in reality a very calculated promotion of hate speeches often to achieve a political advantage which the government must respond.
A key problem here is the very interpretation of the concept of free speech for mostly self-serving reasons by members of the contending political factions. Free speech is a clearly guaranteed component of a democracy. We, however, make bold to point out, that this does not equate with licentiousness. For a democracy to survive there must be clearly enforceable laws against sedition, treason and using the communication media to foment discord which could end up undermining the state and destroying our hard-earned democracy.
We are aware for example, as to how the use of demagoguery and hate speeches propelled the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler to victory in Germany in 1938. The end result was that 60 million people ended up dead as a result of an avoidable war instigated by the Nazis and their allies. Countries in Europe and elsewhere sensibly responded by saying NEVER AGAIN!!
They enforced this position by passing stringent anti-defamation laws with strong penalties to deter those who use speeches and imagery to target groups. This has had salutary effects. Till date in Germany, it is illegal to wear insignia depicting support for the Nazi party. This in no way tramples on free speeches but guarantees it. Groups must be protected in a democratic setting and the state has a moral duty and political obligation to move against those who wish to undermine it by sowing discord. In contemporary terms, the sad example of the misuse of Radio Rwanda should serve as a warning to those who equate licentiousness with democracy. Within a week 800,000 innocent souls were laid to waste as a result of the inability or unwillingness of the state to regulate the broadcasting station.
Regulation is key. It has to be stated here, that self-regulation is not working assiduously as it should. Everyone in the formal and the informal media must realise that they have a duty to modulate extreme views in order to preserve their own freedom to operate. Let no one be in doubt, the proponents of hate speeches have an authoritarian disposition which is irreconcilable with the ethos of democracy. Once they have achieved their aim, out goes any pretence of democracy. This is a vital and recurring decimal in contemporary history. We must be forewarned. For It is the inadequacy of self-regulation that has led to the development of this toxic atmosphere in the first place.