Press Release

Uniting Against Hate: UN South Africa and partners join forces to combat Hate Speech

22 June 2023

The International Day for Countering Hate Speech was commemorated under the theme, “Understanding hate speech from a legal standpoint, its impact on victims and their human rights and, strategies being employed to combat the scourge.”

JOHANNESBURG, 22 June, 2023  –  The United Nations in South Africa in partnership with the Apartheid Museum, the Desmond Tutu Foundation and the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) hosted a panel discussion and a training workshop on hate speech and mis/disinformation to commemorate the International Day for Countering Hate Speech. The overall goal of the event was to bring awareness to and discuss hate speech and mis/disinformation as well as to equip participants with knowledge and practical skills on how to address these ills online.

In his speech, Mr. Nelson Muffuh, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in South Africa, emphasized the UN's commitment to “upholding the principles of human rights, non-discrimination and the right of every individual to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their nationality, race, religion, gender, ethnicity or sexual orientation. These are precisely the principles and rights that hate speech seeks to suppress.”

Mr. Muffuh also stressed that countering hate speech is a moral obligation that falls on all of us, whether we are government authorities, civil society organizations, the private sector, the media, youth, traditional and customary leaders, or simply individuals. He added that hate speech has a devastating impact on social cohesion, human relations, and safety, and that we must do everything in our power to combat it.

Speaking on a panel, Abigail Noko, Regional Representative for Southern Africa, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) called for collective efforts towards building positive jurisprudence, saying that states have a mandate to safeguard human rights and must be liable to address incitement of racial discrimination and tackle hate speech.

Janet Jobson, Chief Executive Officer, Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation, in her message of support called for vigilance around misinformation and disinformation, as hate speech is becoming more prevalent in our society. “We must ensure that we do not fall into the logic of hatred and must not let hatred stand unchallenged. Our humanity is fundamentally bound up with each other and, we must counter hate speech whenever and wherever we encounter it,” said Ms. Jobson.

William Bird, Director of Media Monitoring Africa, also weighed in on the subject and the event saying, “Hate speech doesn’t just cause harm, it incites violence and undermines democracy. We commemorate the International Day for Countering Hate Speech recognizing our recent past, aware that some still seek to use hate speech to silence, bully, denigrate and rob people of their dignity. We all have a responsibility to combat and call out hate speech, but just what is it and how can we do so? Join us as we hear from experts and launch our course to empower the public to act against hate speech online.”

The panellist included Tali Nates, Director, Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre, Ben Winks, Independent Advocate and Thandi Smith, Head of Programmes, Media Monitoring Africa and focused on “Understanding hate speech from a legal standpoint, its impact on victims and their human rights and, strategies being employed to combat the scourge.”

The participants also had a chance for some insight and messages from Alice Nderitu, UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Janet Jobson, CEO of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Foundation and Honourable Ourveena Geereesha Topsy-Soono, African Commission on Human and People’s Rights Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa.

MMA also launched a programme on hate speech training. Dubbed Hate Speech Spotters Programme (HSSP). The goal is to bring awareness to hate speech, its impact on victims/target groups online, as well as how and why spreading such content is harmful and hurtful. The HSSP is designed for both those who have disseminated or are purveyors of online harms.

For media enquiries please contact: Eunice Namugwe, UN Information Centre – Pretoria, Email:, Tel : +27 71 6828310

PHOTOS of event here:

Eunice Namugwe


UN entities involved in this initiative

International Labour Organization
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Resident Coordinator Office
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Information Centre
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Volunteers

Goals we are supporting through this initiative