Gambia: Research Shows Most Hate Speech in the Country Occurs On Social Media

Patrick Mc Carthy, the UN peace and development advisor to The Gambia who represented the resident Coordinator at the commencement of the 3-day training of youth leaders on Media and Information Literacy, has stated that a research commissioned by UNDP and conducted by the Gambia Press Union and the University of The Gambia in 2021 found that most hate speech in The Gambia occurs on social media platforms, mainly Facebook and WhatsApp.

Speaking on Tuesday at the Senegambia Hotel, UN's Mc Carthy said despite this ugly phenomenon, it is his fervent belief that censoring social media or traditional media is potentially harmful and will not effectively curtail the spread of media messages appealing to youth on the basis of hate or violent extremist narratives.

"Developing media and information literacy skills is a better and more sustainable long-term investment. Teaching young people to listen and read without engaging in hate speech, despite provocations, is a crucial element of Media and Information Literacy," he said.

He reiterated that youth leaders need to hone their skills in separating fact from opinion, evaluating text and image for signs of bias, and constructing and deconstructing text based on principles of logic.

"I am aware that UNESCO is committed to continuing working with youth leaders on Media and Information Literacy as an extended form of peacebuilding and civic education that provides an opportunity to develop initiatives to address polarisation, which, if left unaddressed, risks provoking identity-based or faith-based conflict."

He said with the fall of the previous regime, which heavily policed social media, citizens now feel free to express their opinions without facing any reprisals from the government, while saying this new era of press freedom is evidenced by the recent Global Press Freedom Index, which is published annually by Reporters Without Borders, showed that The Gambia jumped 35 places, from 85 to 50 out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom in 2022.

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"As of January 2021, there were nearly 600,000 internet users in The Gambia, representing an increase of 23% over the previous year. Most internet users in The Gambia are youth, who also make up more than 60% of the national population."

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