Monrovia - Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hans M. Barchue, says amid the drawdown of United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), journalists should avoid broadcasting or publishing hate messages which could derail the peace.
The Grand Bassa County District #1 Representative said hate messages are denigrating and dangerous, inducing disunity, unnecessary fight and violence.
He made the remarks on Saturday July 16 when he served as guest speaker for a two-day retreat for members of the Legislature Press Pool (LEGISPOL) – journalists covering the Legislature.
The Deputy Speaker reminded journalists covering the Legislature about the horrors Rwanda and Kenya experienced owing to hate messages.
It can be recalled, the inflammatory role of the radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (Radio RTLM) in the Rwandan genocide was widely documented, showing how hate speech from Radio RTLM increased participation in genocidal violence.
“The radio encouraged people to participate because it said ‘the enemy is the Tutsi,’” remarked one genocide survivor. “If the radio had not declared things, people would not have gone into the attacks.”
In Kenya, Kenyan radio broadcaster Joshua Arap Sang was accused of propagating widespread post-election violence in 2007 and 2008.
The manner of Sang’s speech is also argued to be a call to arms. He is linked to statements such as “the war has begun” and “the people of the milk” should “cut the grass,” colloquial terms referring to the cattle-raising Kalenjin (Sang’s ethnic group) and the agricultural Kikuyu (the ethnic group that was targeted by Sang’s supporters).
The International Criminal Court (ICC) is currently dealing with its first case of dangerous speech, involving reporter Sang.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Speaker hailed LEGISPOL for the in-house capacity building, saying it will help to correct the wrongs.
Montserrado County Senator Geraldine Doe Sheriff also warned members of LEGISPOL to desist from imbalance and paid-for stories.
Veteran journalist Frank Sainworla, the Director of Legislative Information Services (LIS) McCarthy Weh of the Legislature and the House’s Senior Stenographer C. Cumming Chea were the facilitators.
The House and Senate’s Press Directors, Isaac Garyeazon Redd and Jarlawah A. Tonpo were in attendance. The retreat was climaxed with the adoption of LGISPOL Code of Conduct.