Nigeria moves to curtail hate speech, fake news

Solomon Chung, Jos

In a bid to checkmate hate speech, fake news and misinformation, the National Council on Information has recommended the setting up of a council to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria.

The council also said information managers at the state level should have a greater presence on the social media platform so as to quickly counter reports of misinformation, fake news and hate speech.

The recommendations was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the extra ordinary meeting of the National Council on Information on hate speech, fake news and national unity which held in Jos, Plateau State Capital.

The issue of stringent gate keeping was also recommended for the traditional media, especially as the 2019 general election draws near .

Among the 9 point recommendations in the communiqué, federal and state information ministries were urged to use their air spaces to promote peace by exposing the dangers of hate speech and fake news.

The issue of citizens welfare was also observed so also was the need for those responsible for law and enforcement of justice to look into the abuse of laws by citizens.

In his address, the governor of Plateau state, Mr Simon Lalong, represented by the deputy governor, professor Donnie Tyoden said while it is important to progressively engage in discourse that would consecutively enhance the development of Nigeria, it must be done constructively, through constitutional means and acceptable conventions that would not heat up the polity and by extension create a platform for the dismembering of a nation that by its multi ethnic and religious existence, is the envy of many nations.

“The combination of hate speech, conducts, commentaries, writing and displays that combine with the engagement of hate media platforms have in global history proven their agility to incite genocide or foment the silent persecution of ethnic groups in geographical locations of weaknesses. The Rwanda 1994 experience is a classical example.”

The governor then called for the sanctioning of those using the media to bait and explore the innocent and gullible ones.

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed who delivered the key note address and chaired the technical session expressed displeasure over the hate speech spewed on radio stations, social media which he described as alarming.

He said hate speech and fake news can threaten national unity.

The Ministry’s acting permanent Secretary, Mr Hussaini Daya pointed out that Nigeria is going through challenging times of recession, insurgency, secessionists’ agitation and religious intolerance mostly fuelled by unguarded utterances and fake news.

“These practices have become pervasive, thus demanding an urgent need for information managers in both public, media and private sectors to come together and check mate it.”

The meeting attracted attendance from commissioners of Information from various states of the federation.