A mass campaign designed to discourage the misuse of social media has been rolled out in Sierra Leone ahead of the country’s election next year.
According to the country’s Ministry of Information the move is aimed at preventing violence due to irresponsible use of social media. Information Minister Mohamed Bangura said the exercise is geared towards conflict prevention especially given rising tensions within political parties as they seek their presidential candidates.
“This is not only about the government. It is in the interest of the entire country,” Mr Bangura said.
The ministry also said this will help avert the government from regulating social media, as a means of last resort, due to its potential to destabilise the country, the Africa Review reports.
“New media, if not properly managed, has the potential to take this country to an unpleasant situation.”
The minister also pointed out that over 24,000 people will trained and deployed across the West African nation to help in the mass educational exercise.
A civil society organization, Heal Salone has been tasked with mobilizing volunteers and disseminating specially tailored messages.
There has been talk within the Sierra Leonean government in the last five months to regulate the use of social media but civil society activists have opposed such a move saying it would stifle the freedom of speech.
Mr Bangura, however, warned that if this “last-ditch campaign” is unsuccessful, the government will resort to enacting stringent laws.
“If all this fails, then as a government we will come in, because we have a job to do… We will come out with robust laws, you can interpret them as clampdown or whatever… but this country is entitled to live in peace,” he said.
Sierra Leone will hold its election in February 2018.