In an era characterized by the rapid propagation of hate through social media channels and fertile soil for divisive rhetoric, the United Nations has issued a resounding call to arms, demanding global collaboration to counter this corrosive force.

As a journalist deeply invested in humanitarian causes, this initiative is timely and essential in our quest to forge a more respectful and civil world.

Hate speech, a toxic tool fuelling discrimination and stigma, predominantly targets society's most vulnerable: women, refugees, migrants, and minorities. Left unchecked, it possesses the power to disrupt peace and development, sowing the seeds of conflict, tension, and widespread human rights violations. The United Nations is taking a bold stance to reverse the rising tide of hate speech by designating the International Day for Countering Hate Speech as a rallying point for collective action. This clarion call urges individuals, organizations, and governments alike to unite in dismantling the toxic narratives that poison our online and offline communities.

However, it is crucial to tread carefully when combating hate speech, ensuring that we do not trample upon free speech and expression. UN Secretary-General António Guterres rightly emphasizes that hasty and indiscriminate responses, such as blanket bans and internet shutdowns, can inadvertently curtail freedom of speech and expression, potentially infringing on human rights.

Volker Türk, the top UN human rights official, raises a troubling issue: the misuse of hate speech-related laws against journalists and human rights defenders. This misuse represents a threat nearly as contagious as hate speech itself.

Türk underlines that broad law granting states the authority to censor dissenting voices or criticize government policies infringe upon fundamental rights and undermine essential public discourse. Instead of criminalizing protected speech, the UN calls for immediate action against incitement to hatred and violence. Guterres and Türk advocate raising awareness about the perils of hate speech and working collectively to prevent and eradicate it in all its insidious forms.

The United Nations has developed a comprehensive framework, the United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech, to address the root causes and consequences of hate speech.

UN offices worldwide are actively confronting this issue by implementing local action plans based on this strategy. Moreover, the organization actively engages governments, technology companies, and other stakeholders in developing a voluntary code of conduct for information integrity on digital platforms. This code aims to curtail the spread of misinformation, disinformation, and hate speech while safeguarding freedom of expression.

Mr. Türk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, advocates for a multifaceted approach that includes educational initiatives and investments in digital literacy programs. Listening to those most affected by hate speech and holding companies accountable for their human rights obligations are crucial steps in this battle. Furthermore, he emphasizes the need to address the influential voices—officials and influencers—propagating hate speech, advocating for building networks that amplify voices and promote tolerance and understanding.

In a world awash with divisive rhetoric, it becomes our collective responsibility, both as individuals and as a global community, to stand firm against hate speech. Preserving free speech while actively countering hate can pave the way for a more harmonious and inclusive future. Let us draw inspiration from the United Nations' resounding call to action and labour together towards a world where hate speech finds no fertile ground to grow.

Through my journey as a journalist, I have encountered individuals who have braved the storm of hate speech on social media and other platforms. One such inspiring story is that of Sarah, a young activist who tirelessly advocates for women's rights.

Her passionate posts often drew the ire of online trolls, who spewed venomous hate. Instead of retreating, Sarah engaged with empathy and patience, responding to her attackers with facts and a calm demeanor. Over time, some of these trolls transformed into allies, realizing the emptiness of their hateful rhetoric. This experience taught me the power of resilience and civility in the face of hate. It's a reminder that even in the darkest corners of the internet, humanity's capacity for empathy and transformation can prevail.