AYV News May 23, 2023
The United Nations in Sierra Leone has joined calls for citizens and non-citizens, state and non-state actors, representatives of government institutions, religious leaders, and political leaders to take responsibility to combat disinformation, misinformation and hate speech through the promotion of political tolerance and peaceful communication.
United Nations Resident Coordinator, Babatunde Ahonsi said the advance of the Internet, social media and Artificial Intelligence has contributed to inclusion, transparency, and participation of citizens in governance.
He said: “This also carries risks and challenges to the integrity of the information landscape with ramifications on democratic processes”, adding that misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech remain a major challenge as the country moves towards general elections in June this year.
“Over the past two years, the country has seen a flood of hateful statements on social media perpetrated, mainly, by political rivals in the country and abroad,” he cited.
He said the fight against disinformation, misinformation and hate speech remains a shared responsibility of all, especially as the UN has developed the iVerify tool to facilitate identification and fact-checking of potential misrepresented contents, particularly in election times as information travels from social media to radio channels and the public.
He maintained that tolerance is a key ingredient of democracy, implying acceptance and respect for diversity and political pluralism.
He commended the Political Parties Regulation Commission for its efforts to maintain a space for dialogue among political parties.
He also encouraged them, together with the government, the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone, the Police and the security sector, to ensure a level-playing field for all political parties and actors and increase efforts to foster political tolerance.
“We also call on opposition parties to join hands with state institutions and act responsibly, equally promoting tolerance and peace,” stated Mr. Ahonsi.
He emphasised that women and young people have a key role to play in the present and future of democracy and that engaging them to participate safely and constructively in politics, either as voters, activists, or candidates, are core aspects of any effort to sustain democracy.
He concluded that the iVerify platform is an important milestone in underlining and re-emphasising “our joint commitment and collective responsibility to strengthen information integrity.”