ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia on Feb 13 handed a regulation punishing “hate speech” and “disinformation” with hefty fines and lengthy jail phrases, regardless of fears by rights teams it undermines beneficial properties in free speech.
Practically 300 lawmakers voted in favour of the invoice, with 23 votes towards and two abstentions.
The brand new regulation defines hate speech as rhetoric that fuels discrimination “towards people or teams primarily based on their nationality, ethnic and spiritual affiliation, intercourse or disabilities”.
Penalties for disseminating such speech embody fines of as much as 100,000 Ethiopian birr (RM12,928) and jail phrases of as much as two years.
However when hate speech or “disinformation” leads to “an assault on people or teams”, jail phrases can stretch to 5 years.
Lawmakers mentioned there was a must legislate towards hate speech, as a result of it has been partly blamed for rising ethnic violence.
Tensions are anticipated to rise forward of landmark elections due in August.
“This, nevertheless, mustn’t in any approach have an effect on individuals’s proper to specific their opinions,” mentioned Adhana Haile, a member of parliament from the Tigray Folks’s Liberation Entrance (TPLF).
“We even have to verify this invoice will not be utilized with the improper motives, towards people with completely different concepts and views,” Adhana mentioned.
That view echoes issues by international consultants, who criticised a draft invoice in December.
“The draft’s extreme vagueness implies that officers on the federal and regional stage would have virtually unbounded discretion to find out whom to research and prosecute,” David Kaye, the UN’s particular rapporteur on freedom of expression, mentioned in December.
Kaye mentioned that the draft model of the hate speech regulation might “exacerbate ethnic pressure, which can in flip gasoline additional violence”.
The regulation handed Thursday seemed to be largely unchanged from the draft Kaye criticised.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) additionally warned in December that the regulation might be used to focus on individuals who share content material on social media or non-public messaging apps.
“Ethiopia ought to be eradicating authorized provisions that prohibit free expression, not including extra obscure provisions that threat stifling important public debate on essential points,” HRW’s Laetitia Bader mentioned on the time.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, final yr’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been praised for reforms hoped to foster a extra open political and media atmosphere.
However home critics accuse him of authoritarian tendencies, together with locking up political opponents. – AFP