By Abubakarr Bah, Information Attaché
The Islamic Military Counter Terrorism Coalition (IMCTC) has successfully concluded a three-working-day counter-terrorism symposium on the theme “The Role of the Media in Countering Terrorism”.
The Minister of Information and Communications and Head of the Sierra Leone delegation, Hon. Mohamed Rahman Swaray, whilst speaking on the topic “Using social media to Curb the Spread of Extremism” said “hate speech is fodder for conflict. It undermines peace and social cohesion and engenders intolerance and hatred.”
He reiterated that social media have become “a double-edged sword”, adding that the need for peacebuilding cannot be overemphasised. He urged state actors in society to jealously guard against its abuse.
Mr. Swaray said that the President, His Excellency Dr. Julius Maada Bio, the Government and the people of the Republic of Sierra Leone welcomed the IMCTC to support her various efforts at proactively forestalling the spread of extremism in the country.
He disclosed that Sierra Leone recently launched the ‘Go-travel’ Advance Passenger Information (API) system and established the counter-terrorism unit, aimed at detecting and preventing terrorist travel and responding to such threats as and when they occur.
“The Advance Passenger Information and Passenger Name Record (PNR), is meant to aid screening of passengers at destination airports, while preserving their individual rights,” he said.
The Minister also disclosed that the Government of Sierra Leone now collaborates with non-governmental organisations, such as DUBAWA and Salone Fact Checker to correct misinformation and disinformation, especially those that could potentially disrupt the social order.
The Honourable Minister said the government was enforcing the 2020 Cybercrime Act to address the excesses of social media so that they are used for good. He noted that tackling hate speech was crucial to enhancing progress and development across the country as it would help prevent serious human rights violations and the outbreak of another civil war.
Mr. Swaray concluded by saying that: “Technological advancement has opened the digital space. Social media are an essential outlet through which people, including the grassroots population, express their opinions on governance and contemporary issues.”
At the end of the seminar, the Secretary-General of the IMCTC, Major General Pilot Mohammed bin Saeed Al-Mughidi, stressed that the conference was aimed at creating a unified media discourse against terrorism and extremism, and to draw a road map to identify its ways and renewed tools to defeat and eliminate it globally.
“This seminar also aims to increase the level of coordination and cooperation, and intensify dialogue between the media, intellectual and cultural sectors in order to reach effective mechanisms that contribute to combating terrorism at the media and intellectual levels, and to come up with media and intellectual recommendations in this regard,” Major General Al-Mughidi said.
Major General Al-Mugheedi pointed to the magnitude of suffering faced by Islamic and international countries from the scourge of terrorism and extremism, of which Islam is innocent, noting the gravity of atrocities perpetrated by terrorists.
Delegates from 28 accredited countries around the world attended the conference which is the first to be organized by IMCTC since its formation in 2015.
In another development, the minister is expected to engage the staff of the Embassy of the Republic of Sierra Leone in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday.
The meeting will hinge on a familiarisation exercise, update on the key activities undertaken by the Embassy, as well as the achievements of the Ministry of Information and Communications under the leadership of His Excellency the President, Dr. Julius Maada Bio.