ERC records over 100 cases of hate speech for 2023

The content originally appeared on: INews Guyana

Over 100 cases of hate speech were recorded by the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC) in 20223, a grave issue that needs to be seriously addressed by all stakeholders.

This statistical information and plea for betterment for how persons are treated were revealed by ERC’s Deputy Chairman, Charles Ogle during Tuesday’s launch of the Countering Hate Speech campaign by the Commission.

According to Ogle, the Commission has taken significant strides in monitoring these cases.

“In the past year, the ERC has monitored and recorded over 134 instances of hate speech, with 103 violations based on race, seven on religion, and 24 other violations.”

“The Commission has taken significant steps to address these violations through cautionary warnings, mediation, reconciliation and for severe cases, referral to the Guyana Police Force,” he revealed.

Additionally, Ogle emphasised the importance of unity throughout Guyana and the need to address hate speech to maintain peaceful coexistence and tolerance in the country as he outlined the ERC’s ongoing efforts.

“Addressing hate speech has been an ongoing effort at ERC. Over the years, the Commission has established a Media Monitoring Unit and tracked violations based on ethnicity across television, radio, newspapers, and social media. The ERC concords with the UN findings, as social media notably emerges as the main platform for spreading hate speech.”

He acknowledged the challenges faced by society, by stating that persons in Guyana should truly be proud of Guyana’s rich diversity and its corresponding positive attributes.He noted that historical legacies of colonialism, slavery, and indentureship have left deep scars within Guyana, resulting in ethnic tensions and political divides.

He said that through unanimity in Parliament, the ERC was established to address some of these challenges and, along with stakeholders, work towards building a more harmonious society.

Ogle also highlighted global trends and their relevance to Guyana.

“As our UN partner has noted, global trends indicate that xenophobia, racism, intolerance, discrimination, and anti-religious hatred are driving hate speech. In Guyana, hate speech primarily targets individuals based on ethnicity and race. The Ethnic Relations Commission, tasked with promoting harmony and good relations, finds it crucial to counter hate speech in our society.”

The Conquering Hate Speech campaign will ensure that people are conscious that freedom of expression comes with an important responsibility to be respectful, tolerant, and mindful of what we communicate. The ERC team will be available to conduct awareness sessions upon request to address the issues apart from those already scheduled.

The countrywide campaign to tackle hate speech will be done in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The UN General Assembly has declared June 18, the International Day for Countering Hate Speech.

The 2002 Amendment Racial Hostility Act 1964, Chapter 2301, makes it a criminal offence to excite hostility or ill-will against persons because of their race and prohibits incitement to racial hatred. This can include potent words, written or public.

In addition, the Broadcast Act of 2011 prohibits the use of racial, ethnic, or religious vilification of any individual or group by broadcasting operators. The Representation of the People (Amendment) Act, No 1 of 2001 also states that it is a criminal offence for any person to make, or publish, or cause to be made or published any statement or take any action that results in or can result in racial or ethnic violence or hatred among people. These laws demonstrate Guyana’s significant efforts to deter hate speech.