Seditious or Not Seditious

Here we are, diluting the issues yet again. Instead of looking at what constitutes sedition, we’re invoking emotions.

“This is what Yaya did to stifle dissent and freedoms”; really?

But what is sedition?

“Conduct or speech INCITING people to REBEL (not oppose) against the AUTHORITY of a state or monarch.” – Google

So then what constitutes incitement to rebellion against the mandated authority of state? THAT is where the debate needs to be.

The  focus currently may be on the ‘insulting’ the president; needless to say what constitutes an insult is vague, or that most folks (at least on social media) came out to condemn the treatment meted to Mr. Touray by purported security personnel. That points to general condemnation, so not the issue. Let us look at the broader picture here.

Some people express their anger and frustrations with ‘insults’. As immoral as it is, morality is not always synonymous with legality. As long as our laws do not reflect our values, such incidences unfortunately must be endured as part of wider ‘freedoms’.

Such issues can be declared libelous, slanderous or defamatory giving individuals the right to seek redress through the courts. The alternative to that is seeking our individual ways of redress, which usually is physical (then you face charges of assault and battery). It is a complicated situation made even more complicated by the state trying to contain it, but is that the only thing that constitutes sedition? Far from it.

In December 2003, two Rwandan journalists were sentenced to life in prison and another to 35 years “for their roles in fueling the 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and Hutus were murdered.” The trio constituted what became known as the “hate media” inciting people with such phrases as “go to work”; “the graves are not yet full” and a newspaper calling on citizens to exterminate the “cockroach Tutsis”. Yes, cockroaches; term sound familiar? Hint: middle initial A.J.J

After the trial, the chief prosecutor for the Special Court for Rwanda told Reuters “This tribunal has set an important precedent that says if the media in this day and age uses their power to attack an ethnic group or racial group, they will have to face justice,” Yes, our very own current Chief Justice Hassan Bubacar Jallow was the Chief Prosecutor for the court. Guess what the lawyer for one of the criminals said; “The freedom of expression has stepped backward for 50 years.” He told Reuters that such verdicts “could be used as an excuse for politically charged governments to shut down any media outlet with which they disagreed.” Source: The Guardian

800,000 people massacred and we are advocating for those that incited them to be let go of because they have a right to say whatever they want without consequence, regardless of what consequences their words wrought. Wrap your mind around that for a minute.

In our neck of the woods, claims of tribalism is never absent from our political discourse; imagine using that as a weapon to incite people against election verdicts. In fact did some APRC loyalists and big wigs not claim such after the elections? That Jolas are being singled out in the army and public service for retribution/marginalization? Nothing wrong with that view if can be backed by facts, but imagine a contested election outcome and people throwing such rhetoric out in public amidst public demonstrations. Would it still be freedom of speech when the context is so volatile or we can convene at such times and declare hate speech as seditious?

There is a limit to everything, putting up safeguards is not always equal to stifling dissent. The issue should be focused on what should be seditious (like hate speech with intent to incite) and what should not be seditious, but calling for a scrapping of sedition in totality because it violates free speech is irresponsible. Free speech has a limit, otherwise why should libel and defamation be considered as punishable crimes. I can say whatever I want about you, it is my right to free speech and I am expressing how I feel about you, why must the state interfere? If that cannot be true for us, then it should not be true for the collective good.

Let us reason well and make the issue about what should or should not constitute sedition. These unhinged cries and advocacy for cap less freedoms is a recipe for turmoil, at some point we need to recognize that one’s freedom ends where the next person’s freedom begins. Let us go with what is reasonable and not the sentimental.

Yes, criminalizing speech is wrong, but not all speech qualify for that categorization so we must thread with caution. Anything can be abused, because of that fact, safeguards need to be in place. That is the issue!


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