Freedom of expression fuels hate speech, lies – Lawan - Welcome to Uju Ayalogu's Blog

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Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Freedom of expression fuels hate speech, lies – Lawan

Freedom of expression fuels hate speech, lies – Lawan

* Senators booed as FG plans stakeholders meeting on social media regulation

Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, has claimed that freedom of expression has consistently led to hate speech, half truth and lies even as he lamented that the trend was fuelled by the advent of information technology.

He stated this, yesterday, in Abuja at a town hall meeting organised by African Independent Television (AIT) to dissect the implications of the bill for the Act to provide for Independent National Commission For The Prohibition of Hate Speeches and for Other Related Matters, and The Protection Against Internet Falsehood and Manipulation.

“The point about progress in information technology that I earlier made is central. There is no doubt that this progress has resulted into the liberalisation of information gathering and sharing. The new freedom has led to an equally new celebration. The citizen is now supposedly freer, and probably more participatory in conversations. This is consistent with the philosophy of democracy.

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“Coming with this freedom, however, is different patterns and channels of abuses. This come through half-truths, lies, and hate speech. Concerned about this trend, some countries have imposed sanctions, as deterrence, or to prevent it from happening. The thinking is that humans have different motivations and diverse behavioral tendencies. If left unchecked, some might go awry, which is the reason why we have laws and other control systems in organisations and societies,” he said.

But senators Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi and Mohammed Sani, both from Niger State, were booed by angry participants.

Trouble started when the moderator, Prof. Ladi Adamu, allotted five minutes to each panelist to buttress their points, but Senator Sabi objected saying 20 minutes should be allotted to him to explain the bill. But Prof. Odinkalu Odinkalu, objected and demanded equal time for everybody.

According to him, “Nigeria is a country rules do not matter. If there were rules before we came here those rules would have been spared. If people come here and start arguing exceptionalism because they are senators it is not fair. I take an exception to that.“

On the bill he said: “The distinguished senator changed the rules and spent more than 20 minutes without telling us one position inside his bills.”

Country’s Representative of Amnesty International, Osai Ojigho, advised the senators to focus on people-oriented projects rather than spend time trying to gag Nigerians and the press.

Meanwhile, Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said his ministry will this month convene a stakeholders’ meeting as part of efforts to design a framework for the sanitization of the social media.

He stated this in Abuja on Monday when he received the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Jyrki Pulkkinen, and the Ambassador of Innovation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Mr. Jarmo Sareva, who were on an advocacy visit to promote the ideals of the Freedom Online Coalition.

He said the government’s response to the irresponsible use of the social media to promote fake news and hate speech by some unscrupulous individuals is to work with stakeholders to device a mechanism to sanitize the social media, without stifling press freedom or infringing on the rights of individuals.

“Our attempt to sanitise the social media is not at all an attempt to stifle the media and I want to make this very clear…. As we speak today, we will be meeting later in the month with leaders of the media, civil society, security and other stakeholders on how to sanitize our social media and make it safe for all.

“We, especially in this ministry, have watched with some trepidation the social media front and we have seen how some people try to abuse this platform to cause disaffection, especially by pushing fake news and hate speech,” Alhaji Mohammed said.

He said the government remains overwhelmingly committed to the protection of human rights, both offline and online, noting, however, that it will not shy away from ensuring that Nigeria has a responsibly free media.

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