Alagi Yorro Jallow

(JollofNews)- When someone says or writes something you consider hateful, or otherwise improper or offensive, you now may call the police. It’s because of hate speech laws. The police respond the same way they would if you report a purse snatching, a burglary, an assault or an attempted rape. The person who allegedly said or wrote the hateful thing is investigated by the police, and is potentially arrested, prosecuted and jailed.
Does this sound like freedom of speech to you?

As horrible as the ideas of hateful people may be, there’s one thing more horrifying: The prospect of the government legislating and codifying the definition of “hateful speech law” It’s a catastrophe to give this kind of power to any government official. It’s a recipe for divisiveness, hostility, and ultimately civil war and/or dictatorship.

The Communication and law ministers assured of removing the controversial Nana Grey Johnson amended Information Communication Technology Act, considered draconian by legal experts, free speech advocates and others. The fact, however, remains that some draconian provisions of Section of the ICT Act have already been repealed in the Digital Security Act which experts and activists have unequivocally said too endangers the right of citizens to free speech.

Considering this, we call on the communication and law minister to explain to Gambians such assurances, when the existing law in place is simply going to be replaced by another one which is equally, if not more so, considered a threat to the basic rights of citizens as enshrined in our constitution.

Hate Speech law, in fact, goes a step further and empowers the police to make arrests without warrants based on suspicion alone of an offence being committed. Such far reaching power to the police which allows the law enforcing agency to simply ignore the concept of ‘presumption of innocence’ — Article 11 under the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights — added is an even greater threat, to citizen’s right to dissent.

With that in mind, the communication and law ministers should explain why exactly it is that citizens should not be concerned about their right to free speech and democracy itself, given that their right to dissent is a basic tenet of our democracy