Hate Speech bill misdirected – NDI

…we don’t want regulation that would restrict media – Arogundade

-By Funmi Falobi-

Experts have described the ongoing debate on the social media and hate speech bills at the National Assembly as unnecessary saying that Nigeria already has existing laws that have addressed the issues which rather should be enforced.

Many have argued that hate speech does not come to the public space by the media but from the politicians. They said that most hate speeches are from adverts not generated by the media but from political parties especially from the two big political parties with heavy harmful content from them.

Acting Country Director, National Democratic Institute (NDI), Barrister Raymond Esebagbon said that the anti-hate speech is misdirected that those canvassing for it are not aware of the existing laws which have addressed the issues.

“People talking about anti-hate speech don’t know what we have. We have enough legislatures on it. There is the Cybercrime law, Electoral Act. They have addressed a lot of things – misinformation, fake news and others. The current debate is unnecessary. We can strengthen those existing laws and not just talking about anti-hate speech commission.

“The anti-hate speech at the National Assembly is misdirected. Existing laws should be enforced and where inadequate should be strengthened. We need to create more awareness, people don’t know there are existing laws on it,” he said.

While stressing that freedom of information is not at large, he said there is need for national re-orientation in the country to salvage the society saying, “the media have huge role to play to educate rightly, sensitise the people, reorientate the public as a very powerful tool for engagement.”

Similarly, Executive Director, International Press Centre, Mr. Lanre Arogundade said there is no need for any regulation that would restrict the media.

According to him, the legislature in primitive measure is not the best saying that government should work with stakeholders rather than legislature.

“We do not accept the hate speech bill. We don’t want a legislature that would incriminate the media. We should think more of self-regulation. Media is a big player on social media, we don’t want any regulation that would restrict the media. There are also gains of social media but we don’t want harmful use.

“We have trained ourselves on hate speech, government should use the National Orientation Agency (NOA) to sensitise and enlighten the society on it,” he said.

While urging the media to come together and oppose the bills, he also called for dialogue between the government and the media charging that media must remain ethical and prevent violence through fact checking of reports.

However, on his part, the Chief Press Secretary, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Rotimi Oyekanmi, backed the bills saying, “I support the regulation of the social media but it must be done in partnership with the media.”

On the sabotage of bail given to Omoyele Sowore, Arogundade said the excuses by the Department of State Security (DSS) are not acceptable to IPC. He also condemned the ill-treatment on Agba Jalingo stating that it is the onus of the state government to prove that the report by him is not correct and that he should be granted bail.

Similarly, Esebagbon on Sowore said if a court gives an order. It does not behooves the executive to keep him there. The government has the duty to obey the law.

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