The plans by Nigerian government to regulate activities of the social media has continued to receive backlash from many Nigerians and various organisations interested in a free press. The reintroduction of the anti-social media bill by the House of Representatives on Tuesday, November 5, stirred fresh criticisms from many Nigerians who feel it was a plan by the government to restrain a free press by controlling the social media space.
One of the groups kicking against the plan to control the social media space is the Nigerian Guild of Editors. This is one of the most credible organisations in the country that contributes immensely in ensuring a free and professional press in Nigeria. But the group seems not to like this move by the Federal Government, as they see it as an undue plan to control the social media space.
The Nigerian Guild of Editors has advised the federal government to drop the proposed regulation of social media.
The move, it said, negates Section 39 of the 1999 Constitution, which guarantees “freedom of expression, including the right to hold opinions and to receive and impart ideas and information without interference.”
These were the highlights of a communiqué of the standing committee of the Guild after a meeting last Friday in Lagos.
The Guild kicked against the proposed regulation of the social media space, declaring it as an attempt to gag press freedom.
It reminded previous efforts in that direction were usually “misconstrued by security agents and some public officials to harass, arrest and in most cases, illegally detain journalists and other Nigerians for holding their opinions.”
Advising the federal government to seek ways to maximise social media to disseminate information on its activities and policies, it called for engagement of the founders and promoters of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to creatively curtail extremisms of violence and hate speech.
The proposed Social media regulation, the Guild warned will further worsen the nation’s rating in poor record of Press Freedom and Freedom of Speech, which stands at 120 out of 180 nations surveyed.
Instead of ‘sanitising’ the social media, the Guild advised government to engage and collaborate with the media to combat fake news and rumour.
It said: “Such synergy and partnership in an Information Age, is the best way to make the most of the advantages of social media which far outweigh any perceived disadvantages.”
Besides, the Guild said the nation has sufficient laws, including the Cyber Crime Act 2015 to deal with ‘hate speech’ and ‘Fake News’.
Such laws, it said, should be tested “in accordance with due process of the law rather than create another legal instrument and atmosphere that would give agents of state the latitude to harass and criminalise citizens especially journalists.”