Buhari government gags free press, moves to regulate social media
The Muhammadu Buhari Government says it is working to inject sanity into the Social Media space which has gone totally out of control, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed disclosed this at a media briefing on Tuesday in Abuja.
This is coming on the heels of a recent upward review of fines and rejigging of the Broadcasting Code in a manner viewed by media professionals as anti-press and a clear attempt to gag free speech and free press.
“Gentlemen, since we inaugurated our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitise the Social Media space.
“I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control
“No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech 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.
“That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both,’’ he said.
The minister solicited the support of the media to banish fake news and hate speech from the media space.
He recalled that the government had on July 2018, inaugurated a national campaign against fake news and hate speech and he had taken the campaign to the doorsteps of many media houses.
Mohammed said though, the campaign had brought discussions on the menace to the front burner, fake news and hate speech had been going worse.
Mohammed emphasised that the government, in sanitising the social media, would not muzzle the media and stifle free speech.
“This administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech, our campaign is against fake news and hate speech.
“However, if you engage in disseminating fake news or hate speech, you need to be worried, because we will not spare you.
“We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech, because these Siamese Twins of Evil are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and threatening our national unity.
“They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation,’’ he said
The minister recalled that within the context of the campaign, he recently inaugurated an effort to rid the airwaves of fake news and hate speech.
He said the campaign was sequel to the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
“I set up committee on the implementation of the recommendations that were approved by Mr President to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry,’’ he said.
Mohammed highlighted the terms of reference of the committee to include independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license.
He said the committee was also to review the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5 million for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency.
“Willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license
“Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to “Class A’’ offence in the Broadcasting Code.
“Amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations”.
The committee was also saddled with ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualisation of the immense potential of the broadcast industry.
The minister said that once the committee submitted its report, the government would immediately kick-start the implementation of the approved measures to inject sanity into our broadcast industry.
He reiterated that no amount of attacks, sponsored or otherwise, would stop the implementation of the approved recommendations.