ERC and UN Launch Campaign to Combat Hate Speech

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In a concerted effort to educate the public about the impact of their words, the Ethnic Relations Commission (ERC), in partnership with the United Nations (UN), Tuesday launched a “Countering Hate Speech” campaign.

The launch coincided with the UN International Day for Countering Hate Speech, observed annually on June 18th.

This initiative aims to promote peace, tolerance, and understanding in a diverse society like Guyana.

Speaking at the National Library during the launch, ERC Chief Executive Officer Gomin Camacho emphasised that while Guyana is generally peaceful, continuous efforts are needed to uphold this status.

“Globally, hate speech manifests in various forms, such as negative comments on appearance, race, religion, nationality, disability, political association, or sexual orientation,” Camacho stated.

“She highlighted that the campaign seeks to counteract negative sentiments with positive, respectful, and considerate language.

“This campaign aims to educate individuals about the harmful effects of certain words and statements, which can lead to disrespect, hurt, and even violence,” Camacho added.

UN Resident Coordinator to Guyana, Yeşim Oruç, underscored the persistent presence of hate speech in society, exacerbated by internet and social media use.

“Hate speech signifies discrimination, abuse, violence, conflict, and can even indicate potential crimes against humanity,” Oruç said.

She noted the UN’s global efforts to support universities, governments, and other agencies in addressing hate speech.

Addressing hate speech, Oruç clarified, does not mean limiting free speech but preventing its escalation into prohibited or harmful actions under international law.

Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Governance, Gail Teixeira, highlighted that hate speech undermines equality and can lead to severe violence.

“We often misuse our freedom of speech to say inappropriate things,” Teixeira remarked, stressing the role of families in instilling values and principles in children.

“The foundation is in the home,” Teixeira said. “To build a society rooted in respect and tolerance, we must start with teaching values that celebrate diversity as something good and exciting.”

The campaign underscores the importance of thoughtful communication in fostering a peaceful and inclusive society.

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