Nov 19, 2019

Commonwealth concerned over promotion of hate speech

Commonwealth election observers have raised concerns over promotion of hate speech through private media, as well as on social media platforms during the just concluded Presidential election.
Prosper Bani, Former Minister of Interior, Ghana and Chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, in a preliminary statement issued today said that the election has raised some issues which highlight areas for improvement.

He noted that a credible democratic process is an inclusive one where every citizen’s right to participate freely and safely is guaranteed.

“I urge the people of Sri Lanka and their leaders to improve on the inclusivity of future elections. This country’s rich cultural and religious diversity is to be celebrated and valued. We urge all political leaders to prioritise social cohesion and inclusion,” he said.

Another issue of concern was the use and promotion of hate speech through private media, as well as on social media platforms, to conduct campaigns, including well after the 48 hours deadline.

“We note that for this election, the Election Commission was empowered to regulate public media through a set of media guidelines. However, it appeared that private media was largely unregulated. We recommend that ahead of the next election, both private and public media are independently regulated through a legal framework. We will elaborate on this issue in our final report,” the Commonwealth observers said.

The observers were also concerned about the incidents of violence against women during the campaign period.

They urged women’s groups, civil society, political parties and leaders in Parliament, the judiciary, and the entire criminal justice system, to work together to promote and protect the rights of women.