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Why is it Essential for Pakistan to Control Hate Speech?

Hate speech and freedom of expression are two different aspects. Hate speech intends to belittle the opponent and create violence.
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Commonly, “hate speech” refers to offensive discourse targeting a group or an individual based on inherent characteristics (such as race, religion or gender) that may threaten social peace.

To provide a unified framework for the United Nations to address the issue globally, the UN Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech defines hate speech as… “any kind of communication in speech, writing or behaviour, that assails or uses pejorative or discriminatory language concerning a person or a group based on who they are, in other words, based on their religion, ethnicity, nationality, race, colour, descent, gender or another identity factor.”

Nevertheless, there is no universal definition of hate speech under international human rights law. The concept is still under discussion, especially concerning freedom of opinion and expression, non-discrimination and equality. However, there is a vital difference between hate speech and freedom of expression. FOE means expressing one’s views, whereas hate speech intends to create contrasts and violence.

The explosion of hate speech, further exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented challenge for our societies. Although hate speech has always existed, its ever-growing impact fueled by digital communication can devastate those targeted and communities.

Hate speech denies the values of tolerance, inclusion, diversity, and the essence of human rights norms and principles. It may expose those targeted to discrimination, abuse, violence, and social and economic exclusion. When left unchecked, expressions of hatred can even harm societies, peace and development, as it lays the ground for conflict, tension and human rights violations, including atrocity crimes.

Addressing and countering hate speech is, therefore, a necessity. It requires a holistic approach, mobilizing society as a whole. All individuals and organizations – including governments, the private sector, media, Internet corporations, faith leaders, educators, youth and civil society – have a moral duty to speak out firmly against hate speech and a crucial role to play in countering this scourge.

Significantly, combating hate speech requires monitoring and analyzing it to comprehend its dynamics fully. Since the spread of hateful rhetoric can be an early warning of violence – including atrocity crimes – limiting hate speech could mitigate its impact. The authors of hate speech should also be held accountable to end impunity. Monitoring and analyzing hate speech is a priority for many UN entities, including UNESCO – the United Nations specialized agency for education, science and culture – which supports and undertakes research, which supports research to understand its dynamics better. Hate speech has international and national dynamics. It stirs social, cultural, religious and political controversies that could ignite hatred and even violence across nations and within the limits of nation-states. Hate speech is the cruellest enemy of peace in society. Hence, United Nations, international organizations and nation-states are trying their best to control the limits and spread of hate speeches.

Pakistan is facing the severe challenges of hate speeches. The foremost challenge of hate speech in the country is sectarianism. Sectarian hate speeches create severe sectarian issues in the country, and often these speeches lead to violence and religious extremism. Political hate speeches are also rampant in the political culture in Pakistan. Then, there are other social, cultural and ethnic hate speeches which often than not create lousy blood among various communities living in Pakistan. The biggest challenge is the spread of online hate speech. Thus, there is a dire need to improve the quality of cyber laws and implement them. 

It is critical to control the spread of hate speech in Pakistan. It requires the recoding of laws and then implementing them. Implementation of the statutes is crucial in this regard. The social, political and religious leaders must play their role in controlling the menace of hate speech. However, the rule of law with stringent punishments is vital for the cause. There is no way the state and society may allow hate speeches. The judicial remedy needs to be instantaneous and indiscriminate. It requires administrative, legislative and judicial activism to control the menace of hate speeches alongside all social and cultural organizations. Then punishments are also critical for the process of corrections. Hate speech is a crime and must be dealt with according to the crime. The state and nation of Pakistan can not allow the spread of hate speech. Lastly, one who commits hate speech must face the music of law and punishment.              

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