Fake News, Hate speech Capable of Destroying Nigeria if Not Checked – Malami
POLITICS DIGEST – Nigeria’s Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) has maintained that fake news and hate speech are capable of destroying the country if not checked by a regulatory law on social media.
While explaining that there is no absolute freedom any where in the world, the minister noted that fake news and hate speech are twin evils that are destructive, adding that bills to checkmate them will in no way assist in national development and administration of democratic government.
Malami spoke on Friday while in audience with a delegation of African Independent Television (AIT), led by it’s Chairman, Raymond Dokpesi Jnr that was on a courtesy visit to his office.
According to the AGF, “fake news creates apprehension, mistrust and divides the country, same with hate speech.”
While calling on the media to always play it’s constitutional role of holding government accountable, he admonished media professionals to always forge a common understanding with the government for the collective development of the country.
He equally appealed to the media to play it’s role of ensuring peaceful cohesion for the good of the nation.
The minister stated that media attack on government in his own understanding is to push the system to greater development for good governance.
Earlier, the leader of the delegation and Chairman of Daar Communications Plc, owners of AIT, Chief Raymond Dokpesi Jnr, called on the minister to intervene in cases of abuse of media proffesional by security agencies and government officials.
He informed his host that it was difficult to regulate the media when the professionals are clamped down in various detention centres.
Explaining his mission to the AGF, Dokpesi said the delegation was there to invite him to the Town Hall Meeting organized by the organization on media regulation, society and governance coming up on Monday February 3 in Abuja.
He stated that the aim of the Town Hall Meeting was to look at the merit of the fake news and hate speech bills especially where media freedom is breached.
In November, the Senate introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa. This bill seeks to regulate communications in cyberspace. The senator mentioned that the bill is being presented for ‘patriotic Nigerians’ who want peace for the country. The bill seeks to punish transmission of false facts online, the provision of services to transmit falsehood, and the failure of firms and telcos to check abuses via their platforms.
Another bill that has raised concerns of pro-democratic organizations and citizens alike is The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches Bill 2019 also introduced in November. The bill seeks to establish an Independent National Commission for Hate Speech, which would be empowered to enforce the laws and advise the federal government. The bill prescribes a range of punishments including death by hanging for perpetrators of hate speech. The danger of the passage of this bill and the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill is even more amplified by the flagrant treatment of critical or dissident speech as hate speech by government officials in Nigeria.
Despite strong criticism, Nigeria’s Information minister insists the country will go ahead with proposed social media regulation through amendments to the country’s Broadcasting Code to regulate online media. Civil society organizations working in Nigeria have expressed concerns that the ministry is using the broadcasting code, which is secondary legislation as a decoy to avoid public scrutiny on the proposed amendments.