International Press Institute opposes Nigeria hate speech, social media bills


International Press Institute (IPI) has opposed Nigeria’s proposed legislation to regulate social media and the use of hate speech in the country.
“The International Press Institute (IPI, Nigerian Chapter) firmly understands the implications of any law with contentious provisions for free speech, press freedom, media independence, safety of journalism practitioners and the unhindered operations of media businesses,” IPI, Nigeria chairman Kabiru Yusuf said in a statement.
“We wish to make it known that IPI does not in any way support the peddling of Hate Speech, Fake News and deliberate misinformation through any social or conventional media platform.”
In November 2019, Nigeria Senate introduced the Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill, 2019 otherwise known as the social media bill sponsored by Mohammed Sani Musa. This bill seeks to regulate communications in cyberspace.
The Senator said the bill was aimed at helping ‘patriotic Nigerians’ who want peace for the country. The bill proposes to punish the spread of false facts online, the provision of services to transmit falsehood, and the failure of firms and telcos to check abuses via social media platforms.
Another bill that has drawn the ire of Nigerians 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 on defaulters.
The bill prescribes a range of punishments including death by hanging for perpetrators of hate speech.
Despite condemnation and criticisms from most citizens, these legislative proposals have been endorsed by the Nigerian government.
Nigeria’s information and culture minister Lai Mohammed insists that social media and utterances in Nigeria must be regulated “in the interest of the country.
IPI Nigeria chairman, however, does not share the same sentiment with the Nigerian government.
Yusuf said he is aware of government’s concerns but only quacks and non-professionals will act against the polity and national peace and security.
“But we are decidedly opposed to laws with prescription of capital punishment and any other stiff and dehumanising penalties for such abuse of the media space.”
He appealed to stakeholders to go beyond the open condemnations of the proposed laws but vigorously push for desired amendments and changes to the bills before passage or rejection by the legislature.
The IPI Nigeria chairman asked members of the National Assembly to “patriotically explore the alternatives of either re-examining the provisions of the Cyber Crime Act (2015) to accommodate current realities or advocating the applications, when necessary, of its provisions to check any negative use of social media.”