CMEV looks at hate speech and divisive language during 2020 Sri Lanka polls

First published on the website of CMEV on 27 July 2020.

ANFREL member in Sri Lanka, the Centre for Monitoring Election Violence (CMEV), released their report on hate speech and use of divisive language during the 2020 Parliamentary General Election.

CMEV looked at notable incidents of hate speech and use of divisive language during the campaign for the election and identified the trends in these incidents. The trends in hate speech and divisive language use during the Sri Lankan polls that CMEV identified are the following:

Hate speech and use of divisive language were at relatively low levels at the start of the campaign period but are seen to likely spike towards the end of the campaign period as “competition between candidates within particular electoral districts becomes more intense.”

While hate speech and use of divisive language were lower on public social media platforms compared during the 2019 Presidential Election, instances were more prevalent on the ground during “door-to-door canvassing and small pocket meetings partly because there is less scrutiny at the level.” Incidents on the ground, however, are less likely to get reported.

Hate speech and divisive language were expressed by certain political parties’ candidates more than others. There was also a tendency for these incidents to be echoed on the ground when high level and well-known politicians and public figures use hate speech or divisive language and were covered extensively in the media.

Female candidates were also targets of hate speech driven by competition for preferential votes. “The work backgrounds and past associations of such candidates are leveraged in misogynist ways to denigrate them, insinuate that they have bad character and suggest that they are unsuitable for office.”

Sri Lanka is set to hold its Parliamentary Election on 5 August 2020.

Read the full report here: "Hate Speech and Divisive Language During the Parliamentary General Election 2020"

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