The Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, has decried the level of acrimony and slander that currently dominate the nation’s social media space.
He made this known during a town hall at a meeting in Abuja on “Social Media and anti-Hate Speech Bills” organised by Daar Communications PLC.
Mr Malami was represented by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Umar Gwandu.
According to him, Nigeria needed the social media more in the areas of enhancing national unity, patriotism, human capacity development including entrepreneurial skills and not for tearing the nation apart.
“The rate at which the proliferation of acrimony and vilifying statements dominate the social media space is alarming.
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“The consequence of which will be dangerous. No society will fold its arm and allow such ominous crime to go unchecked,” he said.
He, however, said that the media had tried vigorously in the entrenchment of democratic governance and had been instrumental in the process of ensuring good governance through the fight against corruption and upholding the rule of law in line with Section 22 of the 1999 Constitution.
“Nigeria operates a constitutional democracy that guarantees freedom of expression thereby providing conducive atmosphere and veritable platforms that enables Nigerians their inalienable fundamental rights to unhindered ventilation of opinions.
”No doubt, recent developments where Nigerians freely articulate varied view points on numerous national issues are clear testimonies to the commitment of the Federal Government with the doctrine of freedom of expression.”
The attorney-general further said that with the absence of gate-keeping processes of the conventional media, individuals with neither the skills of information verification nor the use of what the reality was had taken it upon their selves to be the purveyors of fake news, hatred and animosity.
“Some turn the platforms into avenues for committing heinous internet fraud and cybercrime.”
Declaring the forum open, President of the Senate, Ahmad Lawan said that the issues had become topical because of the new realities.
“The realities have come because of the fresh gains in media and information technologies.”
He said that the initiative of Daar Communication was to contribute to a national or even a global conversation, on how to solve the problem of hate speech and fake news.
“The expected input is supposedly to enrich the knowledge space and provide a pathway towards unraveling the controversy.
“Like I have always said, this 9th National Assembly is open to ideas. Good policy directions and decisions come through a rigorous process of debate, and with participation from all shades of opinion.
“Shutting down views, or making assumptions on what people will say or might not say, is not a good way to expand the range of thoughts and argument that could form part of the decision making process,” Lawan said.
Speaking earlier, Chairman Daar Communications Raymond Dokpesi (Jnr) said that the forum was aimed at contributing to a wider understanding of the concept of two bills before the National Assembly.
The bills are the Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill or the Fake News Bill and a bill for an Act to Provide for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches and other related matters otherwise known as the Hate Speech Bill collectively referred to as the anti-social media bills.
Mr Dokpesi said that there was no doubt that fake news and hate speech on both traditional and digital media were phenomena which could not be ignored and had to be addressed.
“So we are here today because the laws before the National Assembly, if passed, will impact on the balance of power between the people and the state.”