Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers over the weekend approved a bill prohibiting hate speech and dissemination of fake news and referred it to the national parliament.
The Office of the Attorney General, which drafted and tabled the bill for discussion at the council of minister, said it would deter irresponsible social media activism and fake news dissemination which it said served as a catalyst for ethnic related violence in various parts of the country.
“It is deemed necessary to enact the law because the nation cannot address problems arising from hate speeches and fake news with existing laws,” a statement issued from the council of ministers said.
With the expansion of social media and heated political debate on national issues, contents suggesting hate speech and tribalism/racism are arguably on the rise, requiring stricter legislation to contain the unprecedented damage these may cause.
In consultation with the public on the new law, some argued that censoring posts on social media and bringing accountability will hardly be successful.
Social commentators fear that the law may further restrict freedom of speech and the right to criticize the government.
The statement further said the good social values and interrelations between different ethnic groups in Ethiopia have been eroded due to hate speech and fake news being circulated mainly via social media.
According to the information released earlier from the Attorney General’s Office, sharing defamatory speech could attract at least three years in prison as per the new legislation.