Kerala

Curbing hate speech is a priority for CEO

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Will request cooperation of political parties: Meena

The enforcement of the model code of conduct (MCC) for the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections in Kerala would focus on curbing incendiary rhetoric that might contribute to a climate of hate in the run-up to the polls.

Chief Electoral Officer Teeka Ram Meena is expected to tell a conference of political parties here on Wednesday that acting against hate speech, communally provocative online posts and bigoted discourses will be one of the topmost priorities of his office.

ECI ban

Mr. Meena had clarified earlier that the Election Commission of India (ECI) had explicitly banned political parties from raising contentious and divisive issues relating to religion and places of worship to seek votes.

His statement had drawn an adverse reaction from the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress.

Both parties had stated rather adamantly that they would make the government’s handling of the Sabarimala imbroglio a poll issue. However, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had welcomed the move.

A senior officer attached to the CEO’s office said the Election Commission of India’s thinking was that exposure to hate speech could increase prejudice in society and make it difficult for the electorate to dial down their emotions and reason before they vote.

Poll panel’s concerns

Moreover, when amplified by social media, incendiary rhetoric and messaging could incite political and communal violence. He said Mr. Meena hoped to communicate the ECI’s concerns on the matter to political parties during the conference.

Mr. Meena told The Hindu that he expected the cooperation of political parties.

He said vigilant public and electoral officers would help the CEO enforce the code strictly. His office would set up a complaint monitoring system with a toll-free number soon. The cell would inform complainants via mobile text messages what action they took on their petitions.

Election officials would put in place a system to monitor social media accounts and initiate quick action if observers spot online activity that violated the model code of conduct. The CEO would also accord priority to monitoring poll expenses.

UDF stance

Leader of the Opposition Ramesh Chennithala said the UDF would question the State Chief Electoral Officer’s order on raising the Sabarimala issue during electioneering at an all-party meeting convened by him.

Responding to questions of mediapersons here, Mr. Chennithala said the Sabarimala issue threw up a major challenge on faith that went on to create law and order problems in the State. “What is the basis for putting a clamp on raising such a major issue during the course of election campaign,” he asked.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2020 5:05:23 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/curbing-hate-speech-is-a-priority-for-ceo/article26518314.ece

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