Public hearing: CSOs, NGos, NCC, others Reject Social Media Regulation Bill

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Civil Society Organisations(CSOs),Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), student groups, the Media, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), among others on Monday rejected the social media regulation bill.

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They observed that the bill would gag public speech in the country.

Representatives of the groups who spoke against passing the bill into law at a public hearing in Abuja organised by Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters said the bill was a proliferation of existing laws.

They said the bill,if passed, would further help violate human rights in the country.

The bill, entitled: “Protection from Internet Falsehood Manipulations and other Related Matters Bill 2019”, was sponsored by Sen.Mohammed Musa (APC Niger).

The bill had passed through second reading at the Senate on Nov.20,2019.

First to speak against the bill was Mr Chris Isiguzo, President Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ).

Isiguzo said the bill, if passed, would restrict free expression of Nigerians, noting that NUJ was opposed to the bill.

He said the bill was further proliferation of the existing laws,like the penal code among others.

He, however, said fake news had done more harm,noting that effort should be made to regulate platforms and not the users.

Executive Vice-Chairman, NCC Prof.Umar Danbatta said NCC  was involved in providing  infrastructure for hosting of internet dormain in Nigeria and do not to regulate the internet.

He said certain aspects of the bill could infringe on the rights of Nigerians.

He allayed fears that the bill gave so much power to the Nigerian Police Force, noting also that the bill was a duplication of existing laws.

Dr Clement Nwankwo, Director, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC) said the bill was completely unnecessary.

He said the bill, if passed, would impinge on the right of Nigerians and further empower the security agencies to further impinge on the right of Nigerians.

Other CSOs that spoke against the bill said the bill, if passed would further create unemployment to Nigerian youths working in the digital space and diminish the essence of nationhood in Nigeria.

Others that spoke against the bill and called for its discountance are representatives of Broadcasting Organisations of Nigeria (BON African Independent Television (AIT), Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD) and Publisher of Sahara Reporters, Omoyere Soyere, among others.

But Chief of Army Staff Lt.General Tukur Buratai in his presentation said the Nigerian Army welcomed the bill for reasons bothering on National Security.

Tukur, represented by Deputy Chief of Policy Maj.Gen. Solomon Ndonwa, urged the Senate to consider the bill in the interest of National Security.

Sani, the sponsor of the bill in his earlier remark said Nigeria needs a legal framework to regulate the use of internet space given the danger posed by fake news from the negative usage of social media.

He said the misinformation from the social media had become an epidemic ,noting that the situation could undermine national security.

He said the bill was not to gag free speech or muzzle the media but to ensure that harmful contents are not allowed in the nations internet space.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Judiciary and Legal Matters Sen.Bamidela Opeyemi((APC Ekiti) in his closing remark thanked stakeholders for their interest on issues that affects Nigerians.

He said the public should note that the Senate had yet to take a position on the bill.

He said the committee would painstakingly look at the various memoranda submitted by stakeholders  and present its  final report  on the bill to Senate at plenary.

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