The Gambia Press Union (GPU) in partnership with the University of The Gambia Students' Union (UTGSU) recently implemented a project aimed at tackling hate speech in The Gambia.
Funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the project seeks to enhance the capacity of women and men as stakeholders in ensuring peaceful democratic processes and advocates for the prevention of violence and hate speech.
As part of the project, research on hate speech was commissioned and the idea was to establish the prevalence, the propagators, as well as motivation for spreading hate speech in the country.
The research report was reviewed by stakeholders from different works of life including students from the University of The Gambia, media and Civil Society groups.
Pa Modou Faal, a board member of The Gambia Press Union described the validation as timely, taking into account that the country is in a critical stage and planning ahead of December 4th presidential elections.
Promoting peace, he added, should be everybody's responsibility, adding that the media and other stakeholders are more concerned to serve as peace advocates because they are critical in nurturing peace in the society.
"The objective of the project is to enhance young people and other stakeholders to ensure that there is a peaceful election in the country and also to have a good understanding of issues of hate speeches." Mr Faal noted.
Muhammed Y. Darboe, Secretary General of UTGSU, underscored the importance of the report, saying the document is significant because there are hate speeches that always circulates on social media.
"People should stop incubating hate against one another and preach peace, accept and be tolerant in the society and in that case, we can build a nation that will be united and that will be known for what we have been claiming 'the smiling coast of Africa.'
Yusupha Bojang, a programme manager at the National Council for Civic Education (NCCE), reminded that political engagements and freedoms of speech as stated in Section 25 and 26 of the 1997 Constitution, despite being fundamental rights, must be measured and in line with the laws of The Gambia; hence it is not absolute as stated in Section 209 of the 1997 Constitution.
"Hate speeches and related vices have no place in our democracy. The task of nurturing the country's embryonic democracy and maintenance of peace is a collective one; hence 'democracy without the entirety of the people is incomplete."