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Lawan, Malami raise alarm over consequences of hate speech, fake news

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Lawan, Malami raise alarm over consequences of hate speech, fake newsPresident of the Senate, Dr. Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, has said that the National Assembly is open to suggestions from Nigerians on the best ways to tackle the menace of hate speech and fake news.

This was even as the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami SAN warned that the consequence of hate speech would be dangerous for the country if the level of acrimony and slander that currently dominate the nation’s social media space are not checked.

They both spoke at a town-hall meeting on the Hate Speech and Social Media Bills organized yesterday in Abuja by the Daar Communications, owners of the African Independent Television, AIT, Raypower FM and Faaji FM, respectively.

Lawan, who declared open the event, stressed the need to address the challenge of hate speech and fake news in the Nigerian society.

“We are here today because of some of these challenges, which is the challenge of hate speech and fake news. Added to this is the extent to which government should intervene. Important also is the need to come to an understanding on the best approach in finding a way forward.

“I need to reiterate that we are a democratic nation, where dialogue, conversation, disagreement and agreement are central to how we resolve issues. When exchanges are meaningful, we are sure to have a productive outcome. But when it is characterized with ceaseless conflict, I doubt if there can be progress.”

“This is the direction that the National Assembly has always followed, by asking citizens to be involved in the democratic process. Of course, democracy is about inclusion and participation.

“We do not expect these features only in the provision of the dividends of democracy, but also in the processes that lead to it,” Lawan said.

Lawan, Malami raise alarm over consequences of hate speech, fake news

Earlier in his remarks, Malami, who was represented by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Umar Gwandu, said that Nigeria needs 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. 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.

There is no doubt that fake news and hate speech on both traditional and digital media are phenomena which cannot be ignored and have to be addressed.

In his opening remarks, chairman of Daar Communications, Mr. Raymond Dokpesi (Jnr) described press freedoms and the right of expression as the cardinal principles that govern society, regulation and governance in liberal democracies across the world.

Dokpesi informed that the programme was organised “because the laws before the National Assembly, if passed, will impact on the balance of power between the people and the state.

“It will impact the kind of nation we accept as our own. It will impact the level of freedom of expression we can enjoy and it will impact on the level of interference and intrusion into our privacy we accept from our government.

“It will have such impact because the wording of the bills, the focus of what is criminalised and the punitive measures that are being recommended all point towards a legal and regulatory framework reminiscent of more authoritarian states,” he stressed.

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