Adetutu Folasade-Koyi, Abuja
The Federal Government has concluded plans to regulate social media in Nigeria, just as it said the platform is currently out of control and capable of setting the country ablaze.
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, disclosed at a press conference in Abuja, yesterday, that the Federal Executive Council (FEC) already backed the move.
He also said fine for perpetrators of hate speech and fake new has been raised from N500,000 to N5 million.
“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.
“There must be a point where a nation just responsibly take action otherwise, it will simply see the fabrics of its society torn apart. We’ve also been witnesses both here and abroad to consequences of hate speech and fake news.
“In Rwanda, over 800,000 lives were lost to hate speech alone. In Nigeria, here, we have instances of pandemonium and confusion caused by hate speech and fake news.
“So, for those who want to engage in disseminating fake news and hate speech, there will be no rest for them.
“We will make sure that these laws are implemented and that anybody who falls foul of these new recommendations would be punished accordingly but, those who are pursuing these noble professional manner have nothing to fear from the recommendations.
“We will not be the first country in the world to check recklessness of the social media.
“The United Kingdom is doing so. Singapore has done so. Honestly, the social media, as it is today, constitutes a real and imminent danger to this country.
“We have inaugurated an information committee to sanitise the airwaves but, if the feelers coming out is anything to go by, I think many Nigerians are also very disturbed about the menace of fake news and hate speech on social media.
“As a matter of fact, what goes to the social media is so ridiculous that we are also looking into how to ensure that we inject some form of sanity into it.
“We are going to take best practice all over the world. We are going to study other countries that have contained this because we simply can’t sit down here and allow somebody who simply has access to telephone and airtime to broadcast there is war in Nigeria when there is no war.”
Earlier, Mohammed announced that any broadcast station which operates in breach of the National Broadcasting Code on fake news or hate speech risks not only N5 million fine, its licence would be suspended as well. He, however, assured that government has no plan to gag the media in Nigeria.
“…The National Campaign Against Fake News and Hate Speech, which we launched last July….Within the context of that campaign, I recently launched an effort to rid our airwaves of fake news and hate speech. Specifically, 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, following the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general election.
“The highlights of the recommendations are as follows: 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; review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect the following amendments: upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency; wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of licence; 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; recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC.”