Journalism of Courage

Fake news, hate speech: FG has no intention of stifling press freedom


In a bid to curtail hate speech and fake news in Nigeria, the federal government on Tuesday revealed that it is set to sanitise the social media space.


The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who announced this at a press conference in Abuja, stated that the federal government will implement reforms in the broadcast industry, and sanction any defaulting broadcast media.


According to Mohammed, the broadcast media reform will extend to the social media space, which he termed as being ‘totally out of control’.


He said: “Today’s briefing, as you would imagine, is on the National Campaign Against Fakes News and Hate Speech, which we launched last July.


“Since we launched our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitise the Social Media space. 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 would sit back and allow activities such as fake news and hate speech, which is capable of setting the country on fire, to continue unchecked.


“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.”


The minister recalled that a committee had been set up to implement the recommendations approved by President Mohammadu Buhari, on tackling hate speech and fake news, adding that hate speech and fake news are the ‘Siamese twins of evil’.


He said: “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 a 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 elections.


“We have no intention of stifling free speech or gagging journalists or anyone. Again, this Administration has no intention of muzzling the media. Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. However, if you engage in disseminating fake news or hate speech, you need to be worried, because we will not spare you.


“We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech, because these Siamese Twins of Evil are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and threatening our national unity. They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation.”


According to Mohammed, the highlights of the recommendations includes 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.


He further added that a review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws will reflect amendment of the upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency, and suspension of license after willful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station.

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