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INEC warns parties, candidates against hate speech

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned the 18 registered political parties fielding candidates for the 2023 general elections against any form of abusive…

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has warned the 18 registered political parties fielding candidates for the 2023 general elections against any form of abusive language or hate speech capable of hampering the success of the elections.

The chairman of the commission, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, gave the warning on Monday in Lagos at the ongoing two-day media capacity building workshop on the commission’s progresses, innovations, preparations for the 2023 general elections and critical issues in the Electoral Act 2022.

The event was organised by INEC, European Union (EU) and DAI.

The warning was coming ahead of tomorrow’s formal commencement of campaign activities by the parties.

Prof. Yakubu, represented by National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Festus Okoye, specifically urged all the registered parties to critically study and pay attention to the provisions of the constitution, Electoral Act, Police Act and Public Order Act for proper and peaceful conduct of political campaigns, rallies and processions.

He also charged the media on equal coverage and visibility to all political parties.

“A political campaign or slogan shall not be tainted with abusive language directly or indirectly likely to injure religious, ethnic, tribal or sectional feelings.

“Abusive, intemperate, slanderous or base language or innuendoes designed or likely to provoke violent reactions or emotions shall not be employed or used in political campaigns.

“Let me also remind the media of their constitutional and legal obligations. State apparatus including the media shall not be employed to the advantage or disadvantage of any political party or candidate at any election. In other words, equal coverage and visibility shall be allotted to all political parties by all public print and electronic media organisations.

“The same applies in equal measure to privately owned media organisations subject to payment of appropriate fees,” Yakubu said.

The INEC boss said the commission has entered a critical phase in the electoral process, as it has undertaken eight out of the 14 items on the Calendar and Schedule of Activities for the 2023 General Elections,” he said.

On his part, the representative of the European Union Support Democratic Governance (EU-SDG)/DAI, Denis Mutabazi, said the workshop would avail the commission the opportunity to unveil its strategies to ensure a free, fair and credible 2023 elections, the progress made to date, and the key milestones and challenges that remain.

Also, Chairman of the INEC Press Corps, Mr. Segun Ojumu, noted that the story and indeed the history of the 2023 general elections would be mostly written by journalists amongst others.

“This in the same breadth presents a challenge and an opportunity. A challenge because we have never had an election quite like the one which is at the heart of this workshop—both in terms of scale, legal framework, and technology.

“We would like the commission to respond even quicker to issues as they come up in the weeks and months ahead. A lot of fake news, misinformation, and disinformation have found their way to the media space. INEC must be on top of its game and be in charge of the narrative,” Ojumu said.