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Fighting Fake News and Hate Speech in the Great Lakes Region

The mass media (radio, television, press…) have a vital role to play in the fight against the spread of _Fake News, intox_ and hate speech in the Great Lakes region. With this in mind, CIPESA brought together some fifteen journalists, human rights defenders and civil society players from Goma, Bukavu, Gisenyi and Kigali from July 28 to 29, 2023 in Rubavu, Rwanda. The aim was « exchanging on their contributions in the fight against the spread of hate speech and Fake News ».

 » It requires a community commitment to hope reducing the spread of hate speech and Fake News » explains the first speaker, Pascal Chirhalwirwa, Director of the company Colibri Multi-services. He invites journalists and web users as well to analyze before sharing.

According to him, when face to online information, the first step is to doubt. Then take a critical look (step back) and question the information. In fact, he believes that community involvement must start with a process of mass education to enable them to understand what’s at stake, the scale of the problem, and to equip themselves with the tools of analysis so that the community itself can ensure its control and punish the actors.

That’s why he proposes an approach based on questioning the information received. It’s important to evaluate the person who produced the information. Then question the person’s legitimacy in delivering it. It’s also important to question the target audience for this information, and to analyze whether this information meets the needs of the public, and what are the interests of the person producing it. These are the proposals of this speaker.

Dr. Wakabi also shared the experience of a study carried out in 4 African countries (Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Cameroon). According to him, hate speech and Fakenews are mainly spread by the state, civil society, the media, major web giants and NGOs. He points out that they circulate more frequently during tense periods such as elections.

 He therefore calls on Internet users to exercise moderation, responsibility and beeing careful, and checking the source of the information, » says CIPESA’s Executive Director.

On his side, his, Sammy Mupfuni, director of the online media Congo Check, which specializes in Fact-Checking, agrees that elections are a time of great tension.  »Often content and publications are shared from one camp to smear another, to damage the reputation of candidates or a group .  »

He concluded by calling upon Internet users to be responsible. We must avoid sharing unverified information, and develop a verification reflex.  If a source is quoted, go to it and see if it’s true or a complete fabrication.  »

 What about legal provisions in this area?

From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to the African Charter on Human Rights, including the constitutions of both the DRCongo and Rwanda, freedom of speech is recognized as a human right. However, according to Me Louis Gitimwa, the right to expression is not an absolute right, and its exercise is subject to restrictions and conditions generally accepted in a democratic society.

Hoping ending with this scourge, he counts on the responsibility of journalists and civil society players: « We live in a region that is already complicated enough, so we need to give ourselves a chance at least to live together as everlasting neighbors. We must try to build a more peaceful society, » he concludes.

CIPESA is a thing thang working in the new information and communication technologies sector, focusing on decision-making that facilitates the use of ICT in support of good governance, human rights and livelihoods. Their work addresses the lack of hight-quality information, resources and actors constantly working at the crossroads of technology, human rights and society.

Albert Isse Sivamwanza

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