“Kenya launches text service to stop hate speech” reports the BBC – utterly uncritically. The report assumes that this move is intended solely to reduce violence. No mention is made of the threat to free speech in Kenya, indeed no mention is made of any criticism of the hotline at all. It’s against “hate speech”, what more do you need to know? The National Cohesion and Integration Commission is quoted as having told the BBC “If hate speech is reported, we will be able to respond within 12 hours,” – but apparently the BBC did not see fit to ask him what that response would be. The BBC does not ask who defines “hate speech” or bring up the potential for abuse of this system by political leaders wishing to crush rivals or members of the public with a grudge against their neighbours.
Contrast this with how the BBC covers schemes in Britain in which the public are encouraged to report potential terrorism. In this story, University heads tackle extremism, the entire focus is on the clash between security and academic freedom. In this one, Anti-terror police seek help from internet cafes, a spokesman is quoted as fearing that an initiative “potentially criminalises people for accessing material that is legal but which expresses religious and political opinions that police officers find unacceptable.” That fear, it seems, is worth covering in Britain, but not in Kenya.
I have also posted about this over at Samizdata.