Former President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca has urged the nation to stamp out hate speech after people advocated the murder of migrants in the wake of last Mondays riots at the Ħal Far open centre.
“In a full and effective democracy, the right to freedom of expression is sacred,” Coleiro Preca wrote. “However, fomenting hatred is an abuse of this right and a transgression of the human rights of others.”
“Ethical use of social media has become more important in an ever-changing world. I, therefore, urge those who use social media to be respectful in the way they communicate their diverse views.”
“When used as a weapon, social media gives rise to hate speech and I firmly believe that as a nation we should be doing everything possible to stamp this out.”
Following the riots at the Ħal Far open centre on Sunday, social media was awash with death threats against migrants, with some people saying they should be shot at, burned or gassed.
“They must be gassed Hitler style,” at least two people said.
“Shoot at them… women, men and children, kill them all,” another commented.
Others praised Lorin Scicluna and Francesco Fenech, the two young soldiers who have been charged with the drive-by murder of Ivorian migrant Lassana Cisse Souleymane.
Human rights NGO Aditus urged people to take screenshots of these comments, copy the site URL and file an online police report with the words ‘Hate speech’ included.
Around 300 people took part in the riots and around 100 are currently being charged. As of the time of writing, 16 people have been sentenced to six weeks imprisonment after pleading guilty to charges of disobeying lawful orders and disturbing the public peace.
Another 53 migrants have so far been hit with other charges, including assaulting and threatening police officers, setting fire to vehicles and throwing rocks, but are pleading not guilty.