Youth activist says building national identity is key to countering hate speech
Youth activist and part-time teacher Riak Maker Mading says the people of South Sudan need to work on building a strong national identity to counter hate speech and restore the fractured social fabric.
“We don’t know each other, when you ask any person on the streets who they are, he or she will tell you which tribe he/she comes from,” says Mading.
He warns that the harmful trend of spreading hate speech or insulting and inciting messages based on one’s ethnicity is taking root in South Sudan because people do not know the value of national cohesion.
According to Mading, social media is providing a dangerous platform for uncensored and indiscriminate spread of hate speech.
Anna Nimiriano, an associate editor with the Juba Monitor newspaper said the public should take extra caution as they use social media.
“People should use social media properly and not say things with the intention to harm or hurt.”
Nimiriano concurs with Mading that the people of South Sudan need to learn to cherish their country and desist from causing harm intentionally or otherwise.
Mading says a watchdog should be established to name and shame people who use hateful language.
“We need such an organization to look out for people misusing social media, and then publish their names for the public to see,” Mading says, further suggesting penalties including prison sentences.
Mading said the media has a crucial role to play as informers and educators, citing the example of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which was exacerbated by the spread of hate speech transmitted on an FM radio station.
“The media must make sure only verified and constructive information gets to the public,” he says, adding that the country is at a ‘delicate’ time that requires collective efforts in mending fractured relations.