POLITICAL WARFARE

NCIC hate speech list too simplistic

In Summary

• The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has issued a list of words considered to be potential 'hate speech'

• Seemingly ordinary words like 'fumigate' and 'eliminate' are on the list

NCIC chairman Samuel Kobia
NCIC chairman Samuel Kobia
Image: FILE

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission has issued a list of words that will now be considered as potential hate speech (see P3).

They include seemingly innocuous words like ‘fumigation’ and ‘eliminate’ but also words like ‘uncircumcised’ and ‘madoadoa’, which are presently often used in inflammatory speeches by politicians.

Hate speech is an abomination but we have to walk the fine line between cracking down and stifling free speech.

For instance, it is draconian to ban the word ‘hatupangwingwi’, presumably because it is linked to the song ‘Sipangwingwi’ which is often referenced by UDA supporters. Does that mean the song must be taken off Kenyan radio stations and off YouTube?

Context is everything. The word ‘uncircumcised’ can be extremely ugly when used by a politician in a rally to demonise a particular community. However, in a medical or social context, that word may be totally innocent.

This list of words is too simplistic. The NCIC should continue travelling the difficult road of judging whether comments are hate speech based on the totality of a politician’s words and the context in which they were delivered.

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TheAmerican singer was born on April 9, 1898