Draft Bill Endorsement to Deter the Spread of Hate Speech, Fake News: Media Professionals

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ENA, November 22/2019  Media professionals urged for the immediate approval and implementation of the draft law that aims to tackle the spread of hate speech and fake news in Ethiopia.

The Council of Ministers, in its 75th regular session approved a draft bill looking to target the spread of hate speech and fake news, which would help to deter irresponsible social media activism and disinformation dissemination that served as catalyst for ethnic related violence in several parts of the country.

Media professionals who talked to ENA said like many other countries, Ethiopia is fighting with the serious and growing problem of hate speech and fake news.

So, it is necessary to enact the law without delay as the country can not address the violence posed by hate speeches and fake news with existing laws, they urged.    

Senior journalist at Ahadu radio and television, Tibebu Belete, said the deep-rooted social values of peaceful coexistence have been eroded because of hate speech and fake news being disseminated on various media outlets.

Hate speech and fake news are misleading the public and increasing gaps among the societies, Tibebu stated adding that “We need to make sure that in this global commons, we cultivate trust and confidence that what we see and what we hear is reliable, is trustworthy.” 

In this regard, Tibebu said, it is crucial to endorse the law right away and comes into effect in order to prevent violence arising from hate speech and fake news circulation.

There is a mass media draft law which is under preparation, the new law will bring a new hope for the media trend in Ethiopia, but I boldly urged the government to approve the law as soon as possible,” he said.

Journalists have to abide by media ethics and shoulder their moral values in the move to grapple with the growing impact of hate speech and fake news, he stated.

Tesfaye Getnet, a journalist writing for the weekly business Capital newspaper, said the government and journalists should ensure that the media “fosters accurate information” to avoid violence arising from fake news and hate speeches.  

He urged for The House of Peoples’ Representatives (HPR) to ratify the draft bill and transparent approach for its implementation.  

He also urged that media council established to shoulder its professional responsibility in shunning irresponsible media personnel and advocate for peace journalism.

“I know that a media council has been established in Ethiopia. But what is the role of the council, is it working to improve peace and stability, or counseling the media that are creating chaos. I believe that it can play a great role if enough attention is paid. So, I urged the media council to work for peace and unity,” he explained.

Communication Affairs Director at Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, Gebregiorgis Abreha, said the new draft bill will enable the authority to play a critical role in controlling the spread of hate speech and fake news circulated by the media including social media.

“The main place of hate speech and false information is the social media, and currently we do not have any mechanism to control them. But we are aware that the new law which is under preparation will give us the mandate to control the social media,” he said.

The Director added that giving feedback, training and taking administrative measures are the duties that the authority is currently undertaking.

“We are giving feedback to the media based on our monitoring and evaluation and most of them are taking our feedback positively and they are very ready to correct their faults,” he said.

However, he stated that, the authority is taking serious administrative actions on the media that are refused to take the feedbacks.