Liberia: ECOWAS Envoy Calls for Action on Hate Speech

Josephine Nkrumah, the Resident Representative of the ECOWAS Commission  

…. As she pleads with Liberians to promote civil discourse to consolidate the country’s peace and democracy  

Josephine Nkrumah, the Resident Representative of the ECOWAS Commission, has called on Liberian journalists to “deliberately tackle the spread  of fake news and hate speech to de-escalate socio-political tensions” in the country.

Nkrumah, in remarks at the opening of a two-day ECOWAS media engagement in Monrovia that focuses on countering  misinformation and disinformation during electioneering period, noted that the media, as the gatekeepers, have the power to promote critical thinking by setting the agenda for informed, engaged and discerning civic discourse. 

“As you may know, misinformation and  disinformation pose serious threats to our nascent democracy,” she said. “They have  become instruments that can be used to manipulate public opinion, sow discord, and undermine the electoral process.”

“We have had four coups from post-election conflicts in the sub region and Liberia must stem the tide. The world looks to Liberia to showcase its growing democracy. 

Nkrumah’s plea comes as Liberia, with a history of civil strife and political tensions, is approaching a pivotal moment in its democratic journey with upcoming elections, which has seen a substantial level of false information and hate speech — exacerbating existing tensions and create a hostile atmosphere. 

The ECOWAS envoy’s position is rooted in her belief that the Liberian media, as the guardians of truth, have a moral obligation to build public trust and confidence in the electoral process and ensure that the voice of the people is heard without distortion.

According to Nkrumah, the debilitating impact of misinformation and disinformation on elections can be seen in a number of  recent elections around the world, particularly within our region, “where  lives were lost, properties destroyed, and the credibility of elections compromised.

The ECOWAS envoy noted that going forward, the Liberian media needs help to  promote social cohesion, foster understanding, and counter divisive  narratives during electioneering periods. 

She added that with the election just a few weeks away, it is  critical  for the media to ensure that the  information reaching to the public is accurate and meets ethical  standards.

“The ECOWAS Commission sincerely hopes to foster an environment of  informed and responsible journalism and reporting, believing that we will all contribute to the empowerment of our citizens and the consolidation of our democratic institutions.

“We hope to promote inclusivity, work towards eliminating fake news, resist giving our platforms to people who devise and  promote hate speeches and inciting statements, and ensure that the resonating voices of all Liberians are heard and adequately represented,” Nkrumah added. 

“I take this opportunity to reaffirm ECOWAS’s commitment to complementing  national efforts towards free, fair, inclusive, transparent and peaceful  elections,” she added.