The BBC reports, utterly uncritically, “Kenya launches text service to stop hate speech”
A new text service to report hate speech in Kenya has been launched ahead of a referendum on a new constitution.
The National Cohesion and Integration Commission, set up after the 2007 post-poll violence in which some 1,300 people were killed, will monitor it.
“If hate speech is reported, we will be able to respond within 12 hours,” NCIC head Mzalendo Kibinja told the BBC.
Respond how, exactly? Do they mean issue a statement rebutting the hateful arguments, or do they mean arrest someone?
Mr Kibinja said some people still find it difficult to report their concerns to the authorities.
Because of a commendable reluctance to criminalise speech? Apparently not:
“Sometimes people give up, they don’t want go to the police station because they think nothing will be done,” he told the BBC’s Network Africa programme.
NCIC’s Millie Lwanga said the free SMS number – 6397 – was established thanks to $700,000 (£459,400) received from international donors, Kenya’s Daily Nation paper reports.
I would be interested to know who these foreign donors were, and whether they were individuals or organisations. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the EU helping Africa to try out systems to control free speech that it would like to introduce in Europe – but this is pure speculation on my part.
It could be that this initiative is being misreported, and that a fashionable concern with “hate speech” has been semi-randomly stuck on the label of what is actually a police hotline for people to report mobs gathering or incitement to specific criminal acts.
I hope so. Yes, I do know that Kenya has suffered severe violence after past elections. No, I do not want a repeat of this. But telling informers that their denunciations will be acted upon within twelve hours is not the way to promote civil society. It does not even succeed in reducing violence. The delator and the mob thrived together in ancient Rome.