The minister of Information Lai Mohammed has said there is “no hidden agenda” behind the Nigerian government’s plan to regulate fake news and hate speech on social media.
“But our concern has to do with the abuse of social media by those who are bent on spreading #fakenews and #hatespeech, and the dangers inherent in that for our national peace and unity,” Mohammed said at a meeting with Guild of Corporate Online Publishers (GOCOP) in Abuja on Thursday.
“I have said many times, no responsible government will sit by and allow #fakenews and #hatespeech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.”
The Nigerian government’s plan to implement laws regulating hate speech and fake news has elicited widespread criticisms.
Many Nigerian on social media have criticised the government’s move and said it is an act to undermine its citizen’s freedom of speech.
Also, the Nigerian Senate on Tuesday introduced a bill to establish an agency of the Nigerian government to regulate ‘hate speech’ uttered through different mediums in the country.
The bill christened ‘National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Estb., etc) Bill 2019’ was sponsored by the Deputy Senate Whip Sabi Abdullahi.
The bill which has passed first reading proposed death by hanging and other deterrents for hate speech defaulters
The minister, however, said they have observed that the criticisms are based on two main points.
“The nation already has enough laws to deal with those who are using the social media to purvey #fakenews and #hatespeech and that the planned regulation is aimed at stifling free speech and muzzling the media, especially those critical of the Administration,” Mohammed said.
He said its “premature” for anyone to say there are existing laws to regulate social media as the committee they set up to process the regulation will determine that.
“Again, the fear of stifling #freespeech or muzzling the media is totally unfounded,” Lai Mohammed said
“We have no such plan. As we speak, people are on social media criticizing the Administration.
“We have no problem with that because it is part of democracy.”