The Minister of Information and Culture, 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.
DAILY NIGERIAN reports that the Social Media regulation bill which is currently before the National Assembly has been rejected by many Nigerians who doubted its credibility, saying that the bill is a mechanism for gaging their freedom of expression.
However, in a statement on Monday, Mr Mohammed’s spokesman, Segun Adeyemi said the government’s response to the irresponsible use of social media by some unscrupulous individuals is to work with stakeholders to device a mechanism to sanitize the practice.
Mr Adeyemi quoted the minister as stating this in Abuja when he received the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Dr. Jyrki Pulkkinen, and the Ambassador of Innovation of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Jarmo Sareva.
He said the government’s response to the irresponsible use of social media to promote fake news and hate speech by some unscrupulous individuals is to work with stakeholders to device a mechanism to sanitize social media, without stifling press freedom or infringing on the rights of individuals.
“Our attempt to sanitize 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,” Mr 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.
The Minister said that in spite of the plurality of values, tribes, cultures and religions, the government has striven to strike a balance between press/individual freedom and national security.
“For us in Nigeria, respect for human rights is a cardinal principle of not just our constitution but of our day-to-day governance.
“I am yet to see any country with the kind of population we have, the kind of multi values, multi-cultures and multi religions we have, that has at the same time striven to balance national security with freedom of the press.
“I make bold to say that this administration in particular has no intention and does not tamper with the freedom of speech or freedom of individuals,” he said.
In his remarks, the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Pulkkinen, acknowledged that the Minister has a broad understanding of the issues surrounding the misuse of the social media, particularly in relation to the credibility of information on the platform, and urged Nigeria to partner with global bodies like the Freedom Online Coalition in order to address some of the challenges posed by the social media.
For his part, the Ambassador of Innovation in the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Finland, Sarevo, said the Freedom Online Coalition is a group of 31 like-minded countries formed to promote human rights online and also ensure cybersecurity, privacy and protection of data against illegal usage and monetization and trust, with a view to protecting all those uploading data on the internet.