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Human Rights Watch cautions Ethiopia on hate speech law

Human Rights Watch cautions Ethiopia on hate speech law

Ethiopia

<p><strong>Human Rights Watch (<span class="caps">HRW</span>) has cautioned Ethiopia against plans to enact a new law to curb hate speech, following the rise in deadly ethnic tensions and clashes in the country.</strong></p> <p>The Attorney General’s office last month said it was drafting a bill to curb the rising hate speech and irresponsible use of social media.</p> <p>The global human rights organisation, is now joining experts who expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the planned law.</p> <a style="font-size:16px; font-color:yellow;" href="http://www.africanews.com/2018/11/24/ethiopia-mulls-bill-to-curb-hate-speech-amid-ethnic-tensions/"target="_blank"><span class="caps">READ</span> <span class="caps">MORE</span>: Ethiopia mulls bill to curb hate speech amid ethnic tensions</a> <p>‘’… any law that limits freedom of expression by punishing hate speech must be narrowly drawn and enforced with restraint,’‘ <span class="caps">HRW</span> cautioned.</p> <p>‘‘Many governments have tried and failed to strike the right balance, and Ethiopia’s own track record offers reason for alarm.’‘</p> <p><span class="caps">HRW</span> said Ethiopia’s track record of using vague laws like the anti-terrorism law to crack down on ‘peaceful expressions of dissident’, offers reason for alarm.</p> <p>The anti-terrorism law is currently being reviewed as part of efforts by the Abiy Ahmed-led government to open the political and democratic space in the country.</p> <h2 style="font-size:16px;"><span class="caps">HRW</span> proposes solutions to hate speech</h2> <p><span class="caps">HRW</span>’s Felix Horne argues that the country has other options it can explore, rather than the hate speech law that can easily be abused.</p> <p>‘‘What Ethiopia needs is a comprehensive new strategy – one that even a carefully drawn hate speech law should only be one small part of,’‘ Horne argues.</p> <p>He goes ahead to offer some tips on regulating hate speech; </p> <ul> <li>Public education campaigns</li> <li>Programs to improve digital literacy</li> <li>Encourage self-regulation within and between communities</li> <li>Abiy and other public figures could also speak out regularly and openly about the dangers of hate speech</li> <li>Donors, eager to support the reform process, could help support such a strategy</li> <li>Social media companies should do more, including ensuring they have sufficient resources to respond quickly to reports that speech on their platform may lead to violence</li> </ul> <p><span class="caps">HRW</span> also advocates for more platforms where Ethiopians can express their grievances and discuss critical issues, beyond social media. </p> <p>‘‘The growing list of independent media outlets, as well as universities, civil society organizations, political parties, and others could provide helpful environments for discussion.’‘</p> <a style="font-size:16px; font-color:yellow;" href="http://www.africanews.com/2018/12/03/ethiopia-deploys-federal-forces-over-insecurity-protests-arrests-in-oromia/"target="_blank"><span class="caps">ALSO</span> <span class="caps">READ</span>: Ethiopia deploys federal forces over insecurity; protests, arrests in Oromia</a>

Any law that limits freedom of expression by punishing hate speech must be narrowly drawn and enforced with restraint.

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