Tuesday, 07 December 2021 04:17

Tackling Hate Speech on the Ground

Under NPC’s project Technical Assistance to Justice Institutions in Sri Lanka funded by Legal Action Worldwide (LAW), Training of Trainers on prevention of hate speech was conducted for district coordinators and master trainers from 12 districts.

The programmes were held for participants from Kalutara, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa, Kandy, Rathnapura, Kegalle, Matara, Badulla, Batticaloa, Jaffna, Moneragala and Kurunegala, consisting of seven sessions conducted by resource persons.

Lawyer Jagath Liyana Arachchi defined hate speech and spoke about the domestic legal frame work and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Sessions on the findings of the survey on conceptions on hate speech were conducted by Shashik De Silva, Senior Researcher at the Social Scientists' Association.

Lawyer Nethmini Medawela from Hashtag Generation spoke on media literacy and mindful social media engagement, explaining the harm created on social media platforms and how users must be vigilant and report abusive and hateful content.

Dr. Anusha Edirisinghe from the University of Kelaniya conducted an interactive session on gender and hate speech. Participants said that many women faced harassment through hate speech in their everyday lives.

Sessions on caste and hate speech in the Tamil community were conducted by Dr. Jeeva Sundaram from the University of Jaffna and sessions on caste and hate speech in the Sinhala community were conducted by Professor Tudor Silva from the University of Peradeniya.

Also under the project, two training programmes were conducted for local government authorities in Kalutara and Anuradhapura. The resource persons were master trainers who had been trained by NPC. Participants were made aware of the sociological framework of hate speech, hate speech laws, media literacy and mindful social media engagement.

At the Kalutara training, a special session was conducted on ethical media reporting by journalist Mr. Sripal Wanniarachchi who emphasised the importance of regulating media and how it should not be used as a tool to spread hate speech for political motives.

“I appreciate the initiative taken by NPC to create dialogue about hate speech. It is a timely subject that needs awareness, especially among politicians. The truth is that the media spreads hate speech.

There is a fine line between freedom of expression and hate speech and sometimes freedom of expression creates hate speech. When combatting hatred among communities, ethnicities and religions it is very important that we be united,” he said.

Mr. N. Ibrahim, a local politician from Anuradhapura, said, “It is important that we do not create stigma based on religions and ethnicity. I am a Muslim and I condemn the action of Zaharan and my heart goes out to the victims of the Easter attacks. There are 84 villages in Kebithigollewa, out of which only two are Muslim villages. It was mostly the Sinhalese who voted for me. We all live in harmony.”