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Zinabu Tunu, communications head at the office of the Attorney General

Yared Tsegaye

Addis Abeba, November 23/2018 – Akin to the recently introduced national motto in all government offices and beyond, “Ethiopia, a New Horizon of Hope”, which brings a single page (dashboard) of 100 days plan, the Office of Attorney General is preparing a draft bill aiming to curb hate speech and bring accountability towards public speeches and every other discourse, which is deemed to ignite hate and ethnic tensions in the country.

The rise of irresponsible social media activism and fake news in recent times is being blamed as the catalyst especially for ethnic related violence in various parts of the country.

“There are growing concerns about hate speeches and uncensored activism in the country. The need to have a legal ground in bringing upon accountability towards these is not to be left for time,” Zinabu Tunu, communications head at the office of the Attorney General told Addis Standard.

“As part of the single-page plan [100 days], the ministry is drafting the bill with a ‘no time spirit’,” Zinabu says, pointing on activities that accelerate conflicts on the basis of race, nationality and the public good to be priority circles considered in the upcoming bill, which is expected to be finalized soon as part of the ambitious 100 days plan. It is not to leave out posts and speeches on the social media, which ignite conflict and hate speeches through popular individuals, according to Zinabu.

“Narratives seem to change on the social media. This, however, will be tested as the government can not jail ideas, but people,” Seyoum Teshome , a social media savvy activist and lecturer of Business Management at Ambo University, told  Addis Standard.

“Censoring posts on social media and bringing accountability will hardly be successful ,and it is yet another law to restrict the freedom of speech and right to criticize Abiy’s administration,” Seyoum, who claimed to receive over 200 intimidating messages within an hour after his social media post requesting the release of rights lawyers Mikael Melak and Henock Aklilu who were arrested in Addis Abeba a few weeks ago.

Requesting for public consultation over the matter, Seyoum argues for the need for caution in drafting the upcoming law. He relates the issue with its possible impact on free speech, guaranteed through the FDRE Constitution.

The justice and legal affairs advisory council, composed of 13 members, is also reviewing issues to consider regarding the new bill, according to Zinabu.

As of late, Ethiopia is struggling from the surge of hate speech and fake news in its limited cyber space. AS

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